ICBAN to host Conference on Tourism in An Creagan Visitors Centre

Irish Central Border Area Network Ltd

Date: 17th May 2012

Venue: An Creagan Visitors Centre Creagan, Omagh

Natural Assets: Tourism & the ICBAN Region

9.30 am – Registration & Tea / Coffee / Scones

10.15 am – Welcome – Cllr David Alcorn, Chair, ICBAN Board

10.30 am – Introduction & Context Setting – Colin McKenna – Development Manager, ICBAN

10.45 am – Evidence to Support Policy & Decision Making – NI Perspective – Kathryn Thomson Chief Operating Officer, Northern Ireland Tourist Board

11.00 am – Evidence to Support Policy & Decision Making – ROI Perspective – Aidan Pender, Director of Strategic Development, Fáilte Ireland

11.15 am – Local / Regional Perspective – Cllr Sean Clarke, Chairman, Cookstown District Council and Chairman, Sperrins Tourism

11.35 am – Tea / Coffee & Networking

12.00 pm – Over to You!

Discussion workshops focusing on the current hot topics around tourism

1.00 pm – Lunch

1.45 pm – European / Global Perspective – Richard Watson, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

2.05 pm – Regional Perspective – Sports Tourism: A Regional Enabler – Mark O’Connell, Focus Consulting

2.25 pm – Question & Answer Panel – With today’s guest speakers

 2.55 pm – Closing remarks – Shane Campbel

A little bio on the Guest Speakers

Wesley Atchison, Conference MC, has served as editor of the Omagh-based Tyrone Constitution – the oldest newspaper in County Tyrone – for the past 15 years and, in all, has been a journalist with the paper for about 38 years. Under his editorship, the newspaper has won awards at Northern Ireland & UK level. A former pupil of Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, he has played an active role in community life over the years. A past vice-president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster – being particularly involved in public speaking, debating & drama circles, he is also a former president of Omagh Junior Chamber (of Commerce). He is an active member of the Rotary Club of Omagh.

Kathryn Thomson was appointed Chief Operating Officer in December 2007 following three years as Director of Finance & Business Planning at NITB. She oversees Corporate Development and Organisational Development Directorates, building an effective organisation that both supports and delivers for the tourism sector in Northern Ireland. Working closely with the Chief Executive this includes strategy development, corporate engagement, governance and operational effectiveness. Kathryn holds a BCom (Hons) degree in Business Studies from the

University of Edinburgh, completed her accountancy training at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and has a professional qualification as a Chartered Accountant with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). Previously Kathryn worked in the senior finance team within NHS Greater Glasgow.

Aidan Pender is Director of Strategic Development at Fáilte Ireland (The National Tourism Development Authority). He works with teams of colleagues in four distinct areas – Destination Development, Product Investment & Development, Research & Policy, and Standards, Food, & Tourism Education. As a part of this portfolio, Aidan also works with a range of stakeholders in the support and development of Ireland’s key heritage and culture assets. Before joining Fáilte Ireland in December 2003, Aidan worked for twenty years as a management consultant with PA Consulting Group (London), Management Centre Europe (Brussels) and the Institute of Public Administration (Dublin). He is a graduate of UCD and holds Bachelor of Arts, Master of Public Administration, and Master of Economic Science degrees.

Cllr Sean Clarke became Cookstown District Council Chairman in June 2011 having been elected as a Sinn Fein Councillor in May 2005. He is a member of several Council Committees including Sperrins Tourism Partnership, Development Committee, Policy Resources & Services Committee, Tourism Sub-Committee, Sport & Leisure Committee and RDP Local Action Group. Councillor Clarke has a long connection with the GAA as both a player and an administrator and has been extensively involved within the Community Sector, Credit Union movement and Community Development. An avid historian Councillor Clarke has extensive knowledge of the history of his local area which stretches back 7000 years. A qualified Tour Guide he specialises in facilitating interested parties in his home area of the Sperrins.

Richard Watson is Manager of Marble Arch Caves, (Fermanagh District Council) since 1985, has been instrumental in developing one of Northern Ireland’s leading tourist facilities and also overseeing the development of Cuilcagh Mountain Park, Derrygonnelly Field Studies Centre and the wider Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Richard is a member of UNESCO Global Geoparks inspection panel, the Coordination Committee of the European Geoparks Network, the UK Field Studies Council, the Speleological Union of Ireland and the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation. Richard has first hand experience of many geoparks, national parks and other scenic areas in most European countries and further afield in China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand

Mark O’Connell is Associate Director with Focus Consulting, based in Dublin and Limerick. He has worked extensively on sports and tourism assignments in Ireland and UK with a focus on strategic planning and economic, social and profiling impact measurement of sports tourism on host events. He has created the Sports Tourism Event Assessment Model and has worked with leading sports, tourism and economic development organisations that include Munster Rugby, Thomond Park, Llanelli Scarlets, Shannon Development, Fáilte Ireland, Limerick Regeneration and Special Olympics Ireland on sports and tourism event impact assessment. He was previously Marketing and Consulting Director with BDO.

Patrick Sanders is an illustrator and cartoonist and has worked across Ireland, UK and beyond. He creates visual representations of workshops, discussions, key note speakers, processes and more. Based in Belfast, he has worked with the Centre for Excellence in the Creative & Performing Arts at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland Theatre Association, European University Association and with Green Hat on several projects, most recently at the first two ICBAN Conferences in this series.


The Political & Civic Collaboration Programme is a major strand of ICBAN’s work and has been partfinanced by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). It is being undertaken as part of a wider Central Border Region Spatial Planning Initiative. This Initiative is a cross-border collaborative project which aims to ensure regional commitment to joined-up planning practices amongst stakeholders and seeks to maximise future investment in and development of the ICBAN region.

Between 2011 and 2013, the programme will deliver 2 conferences and 4 training seminars per year (3 in year 1), on relevant topics primarily targeting political elected representatives and council staff, as well as representatives from local business, community and voluntary sectors. The aims of the programme are to:

  • Enhance capacity of elected representatives (& other stakeholders) to engage with policy and practice issuesBuild knowledge of issues around the Central
  • Border Region Spatial Planning InitiativeIntegrate meaningful civic & political engagement to the INTERREG IVA Programme
  • Support & influence spending priorities on development and infrastructure in the Central Border Region
  • Increase cohesion in representing the needs of the region and its communities at local,regional, national and EU levels
  • Create opportunities for inter-sectoral contact & collaboration
  • Use such collaboration to facilitate complementary and value-added impact on spatial planning, strategic development and local government reform processes on both sides of the border
  • Consider & learn from other models of best practice, from elsewhere within the island of Ireland and also from within the EU, on approaches to capacity building which have made a real impact on the planning development of a region.


The conference is being promoted by the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) Ltd, a crossborder, local authority led organisation, comprising of 10 member Councils in this region, five from each jurisdiction. The area constitutes a large portion of the North West region of the island of Ireland.

The mission of ICBAN is about “improving the quality of life and prosperity of the Central Border Region”.

The Councils which constitute ICBAN are Armagh City & District, Cookstown, Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough, Fermanagh and Omagh in Northern Ireland (NI) along with Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo in the Republic of

Ireland (RoI). The areas within the ICBAN region share many characteristics, including social, political, economic and administrative. The many challenges and opportunities for the region are also shared. These challenges include the region’s remoteness from both jurisdictions decision-making heart and location on the periphery of the island of Ireland, UK and Europe, changing population, decline in traditional industries, rural tourism, communities emerging from conflict and years of back-to-back development. The region also shares natural heritage and geographical features and these lakelands, hills, mountains and rivers also present unique challenges.

ICBAN’s Spatial Planning Initiative has four key aims:

  •  Addressing social & economic inequalities
  • A collective voice
  • Joining up development
  • Promoting our regional identity

Green Hat is organising this conference on behalf of ICBAN. It is a community consultancy delivering three key areas of services: Project management, research & evaluation and training & development. Green Hat works exclusively with the public, community and voluntary sectors, and has a wide range of clients from grassroots community groups through to local authorities and national charities. Based in Co Fermanagh, the organisation undertakes assignments throughout Northern Ireland, border counties and north Midlands.