19 November 2007

MEPs meet Council for West

Connaught-Ulster MEPs and members of the Council for the West have met for what has been termed as a very useful exchange of ideas which will be pursued over the coming months.

MEPs Marian Harkin, Jim Higgins and Sean O'Neachtain attended the meeting at Ireland West Airport on the invitation of the Council for the West.

Two presentations were made to the meeting, the first by Professor Seamus Caulfield who spoke about the BMW Region in the European context, and by Bishop Richard Henderson, Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam, Killala and

Achonry. Both are members of the Council for the West.

Professor Caulfield spoke of the stellar economic performance of the BMW Region in the period 1991 to 2004 in comparison to the other eleven member states that with Ireland made up the EU at the time. He said what emerged

from an analysis of this performance was the surprising result that a rural region with only one small city and with over half its population living in the open countryside, a region within a region on an island behind an island off the coast of Europe, with one eight of its economy at best stagnating had outperformed virtually every other region in the EU in terms of economic growth.

Bishop Henderson, while acknowledging the need to bemoan what the region lacks, wondered if we also should be celebrating what we have in the West, rather than taking the default position of trying, without much thought,

to mimic the signs of prosperity in the east of the country. "Have we ever stopped to consider whether there might be a ceiling to our aspirations to prosperity measured in only comparative fiscal terms?" he asked.

The exchange of views between the Council and the MEPs focused the relevance of the Council for the West fifteen years after it was set up; excessive centralisation of power in the EU Parliament; and what's new in

Europe with relevance to the West of Ireland?

The meeting also discussed tax incentives for Balanced Regional Development; the position regarding targeted tax designation; and the broader perspective featuring on alternative energies and technologies, the environment, family and social issues.

Council for the West Chairman Sean Hannick thanked the MEPs for attending and engaging in a lively and informative discussion which would be followed up on a number of fronts. He described the meeting as very useful

and helpful and looked forward to an even closer working relationship in the future.

For their part the MEPs praised the Council for its role in advancing the region, and indicated meetings between them and the Council should take place on a regular basis.

**ENDS**

Note to Editors:

The Council for the West is a voluntary, independent, non-political body which monitors and reports on the socio-economic state of the West and acts as a lobby group promoting the development of the West. The Council for the West was set up by the Western Bishops and has successfully campaigned for retention of Objective 1 Status for the region.

It continues to campaign for balanced regional development and highlights issues of major concern for the region.

Contact Points:

Chairman:                        Sean Hannick, Tel: 087 2564824

Public Relations Officer:   Terry Reilly 086 8109518 / 096 21603 / email: terryreilly@eircom.net

Co-ordinator:                     Caroline Wilson, Tel: 096 32975 / email: cftwest@iol.ie