Taoiseach hears about the positive impact of NW Development Fund
01 April 2022
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin was in Derry today to attend a meeting of the North West Regional Development Group to hear at first-hand the positive impact the Fund is having on regional growth across the North West City Region and the need for continued support from his Government to maintain the collaborative approach to developing the region on both sides of the border.
The meeting, which took place in the Main Hall of Derry's historic Guildhall, was attended by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, An Leas-Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Martin McDermott, and members of the North West Regional Development Group, and focused on the excellent work they have done in the region.
Those attending the meeting heard about the ongoing collaborative approach by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council and their strategic partners in the region and in central government to delivering economic growth and investment, environmental, social and community cohesion for the region.
Other attendees at the meeting included the Chair of the North West Regional Development Group, Cllr Ciaran Brogan (Donegal County Council), as well as the Chief Executives of Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council, John Kelpie and John G McLaughlin, along with senior Government and Council officials.
The meeting allowed the group to directly discuss with the Taoiseach and officials of the Irish Government a range of regional priorities for the region and a range of options for scaling up co-operation and development work between local and central government on both sides of the border.
Delegates attending the meeting heard how, with the Irish Government's continued support and working within the framework of North South Co-operation, the cross-border North West City Region has the potential to drive innovation, create jobs and become a net contributor to a sustainable and balanced regional economy on the island of Ireland.
The meeting was also an opportunity to see the wide-ranging benefits of the North West Development Fund on some local companies, including Fleming Agri in Newbuildings and MMG in Killybegs, with showcases on the tangible benefits they have experienced in furthering their plans for growth and connecting to new markets both at home and abroad.
With the growing focus on environmental issues, Derry City and Strabane District Council's Climate Change Officer Cathy Burns told delegates more about the innovative work underway in terms of climate change across the North West region.
The Taoiseach heard a special message from Moville Community College principal Anthony Doogan, who spoke about the positive impact that investment in the school has had in the local area, and his aspirations in terms of enhancing third level education opportunities for school leavers on both sides of the border in the North West.
Members attending the meeting re-emphasised to the Taoiseach the key priorities for the region and the important role the Irish Government has to play in supporting the efforts to improve road, air, rail and sea connectivity of the region and in supporting sustainable 'green' growth. The importance of the City of Derry Airport and the need for better connectivity between Derry and Dublin was also reiterated, while An Taoiseach was reminded of the need to enhance university and third level education provision including the improvement of job and skills opportunities, as well as increased investment in tourism and innovation that would ultimately improve the physical, mental health and well-being of those living in the region as a key component of a sustainable economy.
Welcoming the opportunity to meet with the Taoiseach, Mayor, Alderman Graham Warke, said the meeting was hugely significant. He said he was delighted to welcome Micheal Martin to the city and the opportunity to showcase the unique governance structures that are in place through the NW Regional Development and NW Strategic Growth groupings to work collectively for the continued growth and investment of the North West City region.
He said: "It was really good to see the Taoiseach visit the city and meet with the group to hear about our success to date in working collaboratively to resource and co-ordinate activities that are helping the region to meet its full potential as a net contributor to the economy in both jurisdictions. The meeting was important in illustrating the strong working relationship we have built and the long-term commitment to working together to ensure this region grows and thrives."
An Leas-Cathaoirleach Councillor Martin McDermott, welcomed the Taoiseach's commitment to the North West City Region to date, and acknowledged that the North West continues to play an important part of the agenda for North South Co-operation since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of the North South Ministerial Council, and the subsequent establishment of the NW Strategic Growth Partnership and the NW Regional Development Group.
He said: "The meeting today was hugely positive in providing the Taoiseach with a range of positive case studies and examples of successful collaborative working. It also allowed us to discuss in detail the range of opportunities that are available to Central and Local Governments, working through the mechanism of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership to take forward a shared approach to inclusive and sustainable growth, economic development and social wellbeing for the entire NW City region. We believe that this mechanism works and with continued Government support it can really help us achieve our full potential."
Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie, said the meeting was important in highlighting the existing shared goals and partnership working arrangements between the two Councils.
He said: "We emphasised to An Taoiseach that in everything we do there is collaboration on a cross regional basis. Whether it is in education, business or tourism, the two Councils and Government are working collaboratively to ensure what we achieve is sustainable and brings benefits and opportunity to everyone."
Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, Mr John G McLaughlin, reinforcing the message around collaboration, said that it was important that the existing relationships were supported and allowed to grow so that the North West City Region continues to work proactively to bring forward a range of joint projects to support the economy.
"We are on a difficult journey as we work through a number of challenges such as Brexit and COVID recovery and more recently, the ongoing war in the Ukraine, so it is more important now than ever that we are all working from the same page. We are committed to working on a collaborative basis on environmental issues, support programmes for SMEs and start-ups and joint FDI/investment trade missions and marketing so that the whole region benefits as a result."