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27 Nov 2021

North West needs higher levels of investment and support

MEP Marian Harkin accuses Government  of undermining LEADER

Deputy Marian Harkin

Speaking in Dail Eireann, Independent TD Marian Harkin strongly emphasised to Taoiseach Michael Martin that as a consequence of the city led model of development contained in the National Development Plan (NDP), the Northern and Western Region could never hope to bridge the economic gap with the rest of the country unless towns like Sligo and Letterkenny were given higher levels of investment and support.

Deputy Harkin spoke of the city led approach to economic development on which much of the NDP is based, these cities are Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.  "However, the Northern and Western region cannot benefit from that approach as it has only one city -Galway, which is situated at its southern tip. The NDP needs to be explicitly nuanced to allow other towns in the region, such as Sligo, to play a special role as a driver for development.

"If the region is to close that gap, towns such as Sligo and Letterkenny must be afforded opportunities and provided with investment that is comparatively greater than that being provided to similar-sized towns in other regions. That is not favouritism. It is an absolute necessity to rebalance the part of the plan that is city-led."

She continued, "Time and again, I have quoted the facts and figures that show the widening economic gap between the Northern and Western region and the rest of the country. Unfortunately, the European Commission confirmed our worst fears by downgrading the region economically, not just compared to other regions in Ireland but to every single region in the EU. In that context, the NDP has some heavy lifting to do in order to redress the economic imbalance which has worsened over the last 15 years."

Deputy Harkin insisted that business as usual has not delivered a fair balance of development to the regions and would not do so this time unless the Government took specific steps to ensure that delivery.

"They include a separate and distinct investment focus on towns like Sligo and Letterkenny to rebalance the investment draw to cities like Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Dublin in the other regions. We also need to have timelines and benchmarks so that we can measure progress and re-adjust if needed. Otherwise, we will only know after the fact whether there has been a balanced share out of resources or not.

"A further safety net would be that all major projects would undergo a regional impact assessment. Quite rightly, we already have value for money assessments and climate impact assessments. We need to add regional assessments to that list if we are serious about delivering regional balance. Unfortunately, the evidence we have to date on what is contained in the NDP already indicates a risk of slippage. According to research by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly on a per capita basis we should be in line for 63 projects of scale but in fact only 55 such projects are earmarked for the region", Marian Harkin concluded.

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