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Continue to focus on the ‘Opportunity Agenda’ urges British Ambassador

03 March 2017

In his address at a Business Networking Event in the Co-Lab in Letterkenny yesterday afternoon the British Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett urged the North West region to continue to focus on the ‘opportunity agenda’.

At this event, which was hosted by LYIT, Donegal County Council and Údarás na nGaeltachta the Ambassador heard first hand from the Chief Executives of both Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council and from business representatives attending the event.

Seamus Neely and John Kelpie in their joint presentation outlined for the Ambassador the work that is being done to drive forward the strategic priorities for the North West region.  They presented findings from the study commissioned by both Councils on the initial analysis of the challenges and opportunities of Brexit for the region and referred to the recently established North West Strategic Growth Partnership which has been strongly endorsed by both Governments.

They acknowledged that while the UK’s exit from the EU has the potential to impact significantly on life in Donegal and the North West region, the real driver for change is the collective vision for the North West region as a centre for growth and prosperity and the need for targeted investment in key strategic priorities to realise this vision.

“We believe that we are in a strong place to respond in a positive way to the challenges of Brexit and by working together we believe that we can build practical responses that will allow us to continue to drive forward economic, environmental and social regeneration for the entire region” said Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council.

John Kelpie, Chief Executive with Derry City & Strabane District Council agreed saying “the new North West Partnership structures present a wonderful forum for both governments to harness the opportunities and potential that exists in this region.  Brexit is a risk on our risk register and it is important for us to get to grips with it, to understand it’s implications but it does not dominate our conversation, our vision for our region dominates our conversation”.

In his response, Ambassador Barnett encouraged those present to continue with this partnership approach and said that the UK are absolutely committed to finding practical solutions to the challenges being faced.  He urged the region to focus on the ‘opportunity agenda’ and admitted that while all the answers are not available yet, he and his embassy are committed to working through practical, innovative and creative responses.

The event concluded with a roundtable discussion with the various business representatives followed by a tour of the Co-Lab.

Ambassador Barnett is continuing the second day of his visit today with a visit to Áislann Ghaoth Dobhair where he will meet representatives from Údarás na nGaeltachta as well as a number of British based companies operating in the area.  His visit to Donegal will conclude this evening with a visit to Dobhair Community School where he will be greeted by School Principal Ms. Áine Ní Chuireáin.