25 August 2007
Lessons to be learned in the West
Sean Hannick, Chairman, Council for the West, speaking at the Humbert Summer School, warned that failure of the West Region to act in concert in relation to Regional Development could only result in lost opportunities for the Region.
He said Shannon was an obvious priority; the situation which had arisen was not only an aviation problem, nor was it merely a Mid-West Region problem.
He went on:
The hijacking of the Shannon-Heathrow slots without consultation or putting in place solutions to ameliorate the impact is an experience not new to the West of Ireland.
But it does highlight yet again a fatal weakness within the entire community of the West of Ireland to bind cohesively together to fight a common cause.
The Shannon lobby is a powerful one as we have seen in recent weeks, and full credit to the community there for flexing their muscles and claiming the attention of the airwaves and the print media.
Contrast that with the campaign by the Council for the West to insist on the Government honouring its commitment under the 2000-2006 National Development Plan.
You will know, indeed, you should know, that the Government has short-changed the Border, Midland and West region to the tune of 3.6 BILLION euro, which includes 500m euro for roads. That's a lot of infrastructure, a lot of jobs and a lot of road miles gone down the tubes.
And let me quickly add, that all other Regions of the country have exceeded their National Development Plan allocation.
At the same time the Government has pledged 580 million euro to roads in another jurisdiction, the 6 Counties. We in the West have no issue with that, nor have we any issue with Belfast getting Heathrow slots through Aer Lingus.
But we do think we would be remiss if we did not declare that we are a little perturbed that money pledged to this area particularly is going to be used in another jurisdiction which happens to be part of the second largest economy in the world. And also going to Regions of the country
which have, as I have just said, already impressively over-maxed.
The Council for the West has been making the case about these biases for several years, and has drawn the attention of the Government and indeed the Taoiseach, to this gross regional imbalance. Yet we have failed to convince Government. Worse still, we have failed to win the support of communities throughout the BMW Region who might have been expected to cry foul in the loudest united voice, for 3½ billion euros is no small beer.
That is our failure: we as a wider community did not act in concert and in not acting made it easier for the Heathrow slots to be pulled from Shannon.
These things are all consequential, of course. What next will be pulled or delayed or curtailed along the Western seaboard? The Atlantic Corridor? The Western Rail Corridor? Tourism ? Infrastructure?
We believe that jobs will be lost and the creation of new jobs restricted unless investment in infrastructure, especially the roads fund, is front-loaded. Did you know that industries operating out of the West of Ireland have to absorb additional costs of up to half a million euro per year to ensure that their products reach market undamaged?
Now let me quote the Taoiseach who said last week, in relation to the Shannon crux, that he had asked a group of senior officials to examine the ‘available options in supporting aviation connectivity for Shannon'. The group has also been asked to examine the level of investment in the region provided under the new National Development Plan and Transport 21.
We in the Council for the West are firmly of the mind that the Taoiseach’s group should be asked to look at the problems caused by infrastructural deficit all along the Atlantic Corridor and the West coast from Kerry to Donegal. More than that, the group should ensure the government implements
a balanced and effective regional policy.
And we call on other like-minded groups operating along the western seaboard to work together to ensure that government not alone honours its commitment to the region but goes the extra mile and delivers what is good not alone for the West but for the country as a whole.
Shannon today? Where tomorrow in the West?
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.
Public Relations Officer: Terry Reilly 086 8109518 / 096 21603 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-ordinator: Caroline Wilson, Tel: 096 32975 / email: email@example.com
Sean Hannick: Tel: 096 32255 / 087 2564824, email: firstname.lastname@example.org