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Strabane ( , ) is a town in the west of County Tyrone and the north-west of Northern Irelandmarker. The town straddles the border between the Republic of Irelandmarker and Northern Irelandmarker with the town of Liffordmarker, County Donegalmarker, to the west. Strabane is the second-largest town in the county. It stands roughly half-way between Omaghmarker and Derrymarker and roughly half-way between Omagh and Letterkennymarker and has a population of 16,000 people. It contains the headquarters of Strabane District Councilmarker. The County Town of County Donegalmarker, Liffordmarker, lies on the other side of the River Foylemarker (across Lifford Bridgemarker), which marks the border between the two counties and between Northern Irelandmarker and the Republic of Irelandmarker.

The River Mourne flows through the centre of the town, and meets the River Finn to form the River Foylemarker. Strabane suffered huge economic damage in 1987 when much of the centre of the town was flooded.

Strabane is twinned with Zeulenrodamarker in the state of Thuringiamarker, Germanymarker.

Recent history

Strabane once had the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the Industrial World, during the height of the troubles. It is one of the most economically deprived towns in the United Kingdom. The average wage in Strabane is just £233 per week, compared with £320 in Northern Ireland and £349 in the rest of the UK.

In August 2005, a Channel 4 television programme presented by property experts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, named Strabane as the eighth-worst place to live in the United Kingdommarker, largely because of the high unemployment rate. Strabane has however moved out of the top 20 for the 2007 edition.

The Troubles

Strabane was scarred by the Troubles, beginning in the early 1970s and continuing throughout much of the 1990s, with bombings commonplace and Irish Republican paramilitary groups, mainly the Provisional Irish Republican Army, regularly attacking the bases of both the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) located in the town. Strabane was once the most bombed town in Europe per size and was the most bombed town in Northern Ireland. Many civilians and members of the security forces were killed or injured over the course of the Troubles.

Many British Army regiments from Englandmarker, Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker served in Strabane at various times during the Troubles, but there is no longer any permanent Army presence in the town.

Both the Ballycolman and Head of the Town areas suffered greatly from deprivation, unemployment and the troubles, with riots, shootings and bomb incidents in the area common, as well as confrontations between British forces and the local population, especially throughout the 1970s and 80s. Recent times, however, have seen an upturn for the area with development agencies and community organisations setting up new centres of activity for adults and young people. Work schemes have also been effective in alleviating unemployment in the area to some extent.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) has carried out many high-profile armed robberies at locations such as banks and supermarkets in the town since 2001, which have tailed off since a BBC Northern Ireland documentary highlighted the events in December 2004, although another robbery involving hostage taking occurred in October 2006. One such robbery at the Ulster Bank in Strabane's Abercorn Square netted £500,000 for the organisation.

Strabane has recently become involved in the Ulster Project International, sending Catholic and Protestant teenagers to the United Statesmarker for prejudice-reduction work.



The town once boasted one of the busiest rail connections on the island, serving both standard gauge and narrow gauge lines. These were all closed by the 1960s and little trace remains, with the exception of an old railway building still stands in the town.

Construction of the standard gauge Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway (L&ER) began in 1845 and followed the River Foylemarker valley 12 miles south to Strabane, which was reached in 1847. By 1852 it had extended from there to Newtownstewartmarker and Omaghmarker and its terminus in Enniskillenmarker was reached in 1854. The company was absorbed into the Great Northern Railway in 1883.


In 1792, the four-mile (6 km) Strabane Canalmarker was constructed from the tidal waters of Lough Foylemarker at Leck, to Strabane. The canal fell into disuse in 1962. In June 2006, the Strabane Lifford Development Commission awarded a £1.3m cross-border waterways restoration contract. The project was launched by President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in Lifford and involves the restoration of one and a half miles of canal and two locks to working order. Work was due to start on the Lough Foyle side of the canal in the summer of 2006 but has not commenced as of yet.


Strabane is classified as a medium town by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (ie with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people). On Census day on April 29, 2001 there were 13,456 people living in Strabane. By mid 2008 the town's population has grown to over 17,000. Of these:

  • 99.3% classed their ethnic group as white
  • 93.3% were from a Catholic background and 6.1% were from a Protestant background
  • 43.6% of people aged 16–74 were economically inactive
  • 96.8% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed
  • 15.6% of people aged 16–59 were claiming incapacity benefit
  • 27.6% were aged under 16 years and 13.7% were aged 60 and over
  • 51.1% of the population were male and 48.9% were female.


At the local elections in May 2005, members of Strabane District Council were elected from the following political parties: 8 Sinn Féin, 3 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 2 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), 2 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and 1 Independent Nationalist. The current council chairman is Councillor Kieran McGuire (Sinn Féin). Mr McGuire is the youngest person to hold the position of chair. He is also the first native of Aghyaran to hold the position. The Strabane District Council area covers an area of 861.6 km² and according to the 2001 Census, the council area had a total population of 38,250.

Pat Doherty, of Sinn Féin, is the local Member of Parliament for the constituency of West Tyrone.



The local Gaelic football team, Strabane Sigersons, and the hurling team, Strabane Seamrogaí, are ever expanding. The Sigerson Cup, the all-Ireland colleges cup for Gaelic football, is named after a native of the town, Dr Sigerson.

Strabane also boasts several local football teams that play in various leagues. Strabane F.C. of the Northern Ireland Intermediate League, Mourne Harps, playing the Central Bookmakers Saturday Morning League and Sion Swifts whose two teams play in the CBSML and the North West Junior League all represent the local population.

Strabane also has an excellent par 69 parkland golf course.The club is celebrating their centenary year in 2009.

Strabane Golf Course [14768] is an exquisite 18 Hole Parkland course set in the foothillls of the Sperrin Mountains, 1 mile south of Strabane. Designed by Des Hackett, the course is a par 69 measuring 5,543 metres off the Medal tees (White). The signature hole of the course is the par 4 9th, "The River" , which has the river Mourne running along the full length of the hole.

Strabane also has a very large amount of road runners. The local 10k race which is run in July is very well supported by local athletes and those from further afield.

Irish language

Strabane has an Irish-medium nursery named Naíscoil an tSratha Báin, which was founded in 1994, and a Gaelscoil (primary school). Other Irish language groups including the Craobh Mhic an Chrosáin branch of Conradh na Gaeilge and Gaelphobal the umbrella group for the irish language groups are also active in the Strabane District.

Music and arts

CRAIC (Cultural Revival Among Interested Communities) a cross-border, cross-community group provides music lessons to both adults and children on a voluntary basis in the local Irish language Gaelscoil. The Barret School of Irish Dancing has produced some of Ireland's best Irish dancers, and the local theatre group, The Puddle Alley Players, has won several awards over the years in several amateur dramatic competitions.

In 2007, the Alley Arts and Conference Centre opened to the general public, offering a 270-seat theatre, art gallery, tourist information centre and cafe-bar. The Alley has won numerous awards since opening, including Northern Ireland Building of the Year 2008, Allianz Arts and Business Award 2009 and the The Green Apple Award 2008. The venue has also hosted the All Ireland Confined Drama Finals (2008) and is the current home of the North West Music Festival, The Stage Write Schools Drama Festival, Sounds Like Summer Music Festival, the Strabane Drama Festival and the Johnny Crampsie Music Festival.

Strabane also boasts two brass bands: Strabane Concert Brass, five times national champions, as well as St Joseph's Brass Band current NIBA Grade 2 Champions. Accordion bands also had been a feature of the culture in Strabane in the past, with the Mourne Accordion Band and Tom P Mullan Accordion Band. These were succeeded by the Oliver Plunket Band which survived until 2005. The town is currently represented by the Tom P Mullan Memorial Accordion Band, which was formed in 2006.

Strabane also has a flute band, The Strabane Memorial Flute Band, which attends Irish republican parades and similar events throughout Ireland, Scotlandmarker and the USAmarker.

Strabane plays host to a very popular and successful St Patricks Day Parade each year, this years parade saw over 40 different groups take part in the parade with over 5,000 people on the streets to view the parade.

One of Strabane's most notable features are five steel structures: two dancers, a fiddle player on the Lifford side, a flute player on the Strabane side and a drummer in the middle. Designed by Maurice Harron, they were placed at the site of the former British army base at the Tyrone-Donegal border. Affectionately known locally as The Tinneys.


Education in Strabane is provided by a mixture of infant, primary and secondary schools. The central location of the town allows parents the choice of schools in Derrymarker, Omaghmarker and Donegalmarker. Strabane Grammar School has a 100% achievement rate of grades A-C at GCSE level and a 67% rate of three or more grades A-C at A level, a state of the art secondary school will be opening in 2009.The school will be joined by Strabane High School, to make one controlled secondary education school.

Post sixteen education is catered for by The North West Institute of Further and Higher Education. This institution offers a wide range of vocational and adult education courses and in addition offers access courses for the University of Ulster at Magee.

Holy Cross College was opened in 2008. It is a state of the art building. It holds over 1000 pupils and 90 teachers. The building was supposed to be built for September 2006 but did not get the correct funding.

Places of interest

The wider area surrounding Strabane has many scenic forests and glens, and angling and fishing tourism is popular in the River Mourne, particularly between Victoria Bridge and Strabane. Golfing legend Tiger Woods fished this stretch of the river in a recent visit. The town is home to one of Ireland's largest golf courses.

The National Trust owns the Strabane house in which John Dunlap learnt the printing trade. Dunlap went on to print the United States Declaration of Independence. The house has been visited by several famous people, including former US President Bill Clinton. It is located at the end of the Main Street.

Nearby Strabane is Dergalt, the ancestral home of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, which on May 8, 2008 been severely damaged by fire.



  1. YouTube
  2. Northern Ireland Assembly - Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment - Report on Strategy 2010 Inquiry (ANNEX 37, SECTION 2)
  3. The Best and Worst Places to Live in Britain
  4. BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Town shrugs off dismal TV label
  5. Northern Ireland Assembly
  6. BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Raid hostage women 'traumatised'
  7. £20m stolen in UK's biggest bank robbery - was it paramilitaries or common criminals? | UK news | The Guardian
  8. BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland | Four arrested over bank robbery
  9. Ulster Project International
  10. Maurice Harron-Artist-sculptor
  11. Very Derry: The Tinneys
  12. Department for Employment and Learning
  13. Geographia - World Travel Destinations, Culture and History Guide
  14. BBC NEWS
  15. BBC News | World | Jail breaker on police killing charge

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