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Border Region facts for kids

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The Border region of Ireland with each constituent county council highlighted.

The Border Region (coded IE041) is a NUTS Level III statistical region of Ireland. The name of the region refers to its location along the Republic of Ireland–United Kingdom border. It is not a cross-border region. It comprises the Irish counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo. The Border Region spans 11,516 km2, 16.4% of the total area of the state, and has a population of 392,837 persons, 8.28% of the state total.

Prior to 2014, the region was administered by the Border Regional Authority. As of 2015, it is a strategic planning area within the Northern and Western Region.

The region's largest towns are Letterkenny and Sligo, both of which have populations of just over 19,000.


The region stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Irish Sea in the east. Two of Ireland's longest rivers, the Shannon and the Erne have their source here and have been connected to form one of the world's longest waterways - the Shannon–Erne Waterway. The region has a large rural landscape with many distinctive geographical features. There are many large mountain ranges and high sea cliffs in Donegal, such as Derryveagh Mountains and Slieve League. The region contains two of Ireland's three fjords: Lough Swilly in County Donegal and Carlingford Lough in County Louth.

Former Regional Authority

The Border region was administered by the Border Regional Authority, which consisted of 38 elected representatives including the region's representative on the EU Committee of the Regions. These representatives met once a month and were nominated from the six local government councils of the region:

  • Donegal County Council
  • Louth County Council
  • Cavan County Council
  • Monaghan County Council
  • Sligo County Council
  • Leitrim County Council

The Regional Authorities were dissolved in 2014 and were replaced by Regional Assemblies.

Major settlements

A list of the ten largest settlements in the Border region. County capitals are included and are shown in bold.

Rank Town County Population
(2011 census)
1 Drogheda Louth 38,578 Drogheda2005.jpg
2 Dundalk Louth 37,816 Dkit1 1024x768.jpg
3 Letterkenny Donegal 19,588 Letterkenny Town View.jpg
4 Sligo Sligo 19,452 North Sligo Town.jpg
5 Cavan Cavan 10,205 Cavan churches.jpg
6 Monaghan Monaghan 7,452 Dublin Street, Monaghan - - 612814.jpg
7 Buncrana Donegal 7,199 Buncrana - geograph - 746502.jpg
8 Ardee Louth 4,927 Ardee - Market Street.jpg
9 Carrickmacross Monaghan 4,925 Carrickmacross, Aeriel View.jpg
10 Ballybofey-Stranorlar Donegal 4,852 Balor arts centre - - 1376876.jpg


Ballyconnell cement plant
A cement factory in Ballyconnell, County Cavan.

According to Eurostat figures for 2016, the region had GDP of €11.399 bn and a GDP per capita of €21,885, the lowest per capita GDP in the country. This 2016 data included County Louth, the CSO has yet to publish 2018 data for the new boundary. The Irish Financial Crisis of 2008 had a devastating impact on the Border Region. In 2007, regional GDP per capita was €30,697, by 2014 it had fallen to €19,957. While economic activity is growing steadily, it still remains well below peak levels.

Services, agriculture, manufacturing, fishing and tourism are all important industries in the region. According to 2016 CSO data on Gross value added by region, Services account for 64.1% of the regional economy, followed by Manufacturing and Construction at 32.8% and Agriculture at 3%. Tourism to the Border Region, while continuing to grow in significance, is hindered by poor infrastructure.

The region is largely rural, characterized by typically much smaller farms than seen in the Mid-East or Mid-West. Agriculture in the region produces €396.2 million per year; however, government subsidies account for 68.1% of this income. Approximately 65% of all commercial fish landings in Ireland take place in Donegal.

A study by the European Committee of the Regions found that Ireland's border counties were the most exposed in Europe to the economic effects of Brexit. Cross-border trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic is centered around the Border Region, and some 33% of Border Region exports go to the UK, well above the state total of 18%.

In Q2 2017, regional unemployment was registered at 6.6%, slightly above the national rate of 6.4%. The labour force (over 15 years of age) was estimated to be in excess of 210,000 persons.


Hotel, beach, and shipwreck south of R257 at Bunbeg - - 1159653
Gweedore, County Donegal, is a Gaeltacht area famed for its tradition.

Much like the rest of Ireland, the Border Region has a steadily increasing population, although it remains on average the slowest growing region in the country. The region's population growth is split along east–west lines, owing to the more easterly border counties' proximity to Dublin. Cavan is one of Ireland's fastest growing counties, having registered a 4% population increase between 2011 and 2016. In contrast, Donegal is Ireland's most rapidly declining county, having shrank 1.5% during that same period.

County Area (km2) Population % of region pop. Change 2011-2016
Donegal 4,861 158,755 40.4% -1.2%
Cavan 1,932 76,092 19.4% 4.0%
Sligo 1,838 65,535 16.7% -0.1%
Monaghan 1,295 60,483 15.4% 1.3%
Leitrim 1,590 31,972 8.1% 0.5%

According to the 2016 census, the Border Region had a population of 392,837, which constitutes 8.28% of the national population. Its population density was 34.1 persons per km, the second lowest in the country. Donegal is by far the largest county in the Border Region by both area and population.

The Border Region contains a number of nationally significant Gaeltacht areas, such as Gweedore, Na Rosa and Tory Island. The dialect generally spoken in the border region is Ulster Irish, while Donegal has its own distinct sub-dialect known as West Ulster Irish, colloquially referred to as "Donegal Irish". 25% of Ireland's Gaeltacht population lives within Donegal. Despite this, the Border Region has the lowest percentage of Irish speakers of any region. The percentage of Irish speakers by county is: Leitrim (40%), Sligo (39.9%), Monghan (37.6%) Donegal (37.1%) and Cavan (34.6%).

The region only contains 17 towns with a population of over 2,000 people. 7 of these are located in Donegal, 5 in Cavan, 3 in Monaghan and 1 in both Sligo and Leitrim respectively.

Major settlements

A list of the ten largest settlements in the Border Region.

County capitals are included and are shown in bold.

Rank Town County Population
(2016 census)
1 Letterkenny Donegal 19,274
2 Sligo Sligo 19,199
3 Cavan Cavan 10,914
4 Monaghan Monaghan 7,678
5 Buncrana Donegal 6,785
6 Carrickmacross Monaghan 5,032
7 Ballybofey-Stranorlar Donegal 4,852
8 Virginia Cavan 4,393
9 Carrick-on-Shannon Leitrim 4,062
10 Castleblayney Monaghan 3,634



The Border Region is the only region in Ireland which is not serviced by the motorway network.

The Border Region contains one commercially operating airport, Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn, which services 45,000 passengers annually. Just outside the region is City of Derry Airport, located in Eglinton in County Londonderry, which is used by many people living in East Donegal and Inishowen, and Ireland West Airport Knock, located in County Mayo, very near to Counties Sligo and Leitrim. In addition, Sligo Airport is a small regional airport, but operates no regularly scheduled flights. The Irish Defence Forces utilise a military landing strip at Finner Camp in South Donegal.


In terms of both road and rail, the Border Region is the most poorly serviced region in the country. Iarnród Éireann operate a Dublin–Sligo railway line which also serves Carrick-on-Shannon. The Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway was the main rail line operating in part of the region, before shutting down in 1957. The Donegal Railway Company, and after that the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee, managed the extensive rail networks that were built throughout Donegal in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since its closure in 1960, Donegal has had no operational railways. Similarly, Monaghan is the only other county in the Republic of Ireland with no existing commercial or freight railway lines. The nearest fully operational railway station to County Donegal is Waterside Station in Derry, operated by Northern Ireland Railways (N.I.R.).


The Border Region is the only region in the Republic of Ireland with no access to the national motorway network. Former Border Region county Louth had the M1, which runs from Dublin to Dundalk. Transport links with Cavan have been improved substantially with the construction of the M3, however it only goes as far as Kells in County Meath, before reverting into the N3 dual carriageway.

The region is served by the following national primary roads:

National Primary Roads that Serve the Border Region
Road Name Description Length
IRL N2.svgM2 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Monaghan – (A5 OmaghDerry) 133.01 km (82.65 mi)
IRL N3.svgM3 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Cavan – Ballyshannon 127.39 km (79.16 mi)
IRL N4.svgM4 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Sligo 198.21 km (123.16 mi)
IRL N12.svg Monaghan – Border (Ardgonnell Bridge) – (A3 to Belfast) 6.87 km (4.27 mi)
IRL N13.svg (N15 from Sligo) – Stranorlar – Letterkenny – (A2 to Derry, A6, M22, M2 to Belfast) 43.76 km (27.19 mi)
IRL N14.svg Letterkenny – Lifford – (A38 to Strabane) 17.48 km (10.86 mi)
IRL N15.svg Sligo – Donegal – Lifford – (A38, A5 to Derry) 110.99 km (68.97 mi)
IRL N16.svg Sligo – (A4 to Enniskillen, A4, M1 to Belfast) 47.49 km (29.51 mi)
IRL N17.svgM17 reduced motorway IE.png Galway – Claremorris – Collooney – (N4 to Sligo) 122.85 km (76.34 mi)

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