Western Needs

 

PRIORITIES FOR THE REGION

 

 

General Election Submission to All Political Parties

 

by

 

THE COUNCIL FOR THE WEST

 

and

 

WESTERN COMMUNITY FORA ALLIANCE

 

 

 

 

April 2007

 

 

 

 

 

COUNCIL FOR THE WEST

 

The Council for the West is a voluntary, independent, non-political body with charitable status established in 1994 to combat the decline in population and services in rural areas of the West of Ireland. It was set up by the Western Bishops arising out of a report entitled Crusade for Survival.

 

Its membership is comprised of voluntary, non-renumerated persons compromising representation from the main churches, businesses and community activists.

 

The Council for the West is concerned with major social and economic issues affecting the development of the counties in the region: Donegal. Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

             

Officers are:

 

Chairman:                         Sean Hannick (Mayo)

Vice Chairman:                 Declan O'Callaghan (Roscommon)

Secretary:                         Michael McGarrigle (Donegal)

Treasurer:                          Ray O'Donoghue (Galway)

Co-ordinator:                      Caroline Wilson.

 

Council for the West

Killala Business Park,

Killala

Co Mayo

Phone: 096 32975

Fax:        09632014

Email:     cftwest@iol.ie

Web:      www.councilforthewest.ie

 

 

 

 

WESTERN COMMUNITY FORA ALLIANCE

 

Following the setting up of a national body to bring together all the County and City Community Fora throughout the country, the National Executive agreed to groups of fora forming an alliance based on either a geographic or a common interest basis. A number of fora in the western region in 2006 formed the Western Community Fora Alliance.  It consists of counties Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Galway County, Galway City and Clare and represents approximately 4,000 registered community groups. The Alliance has also formed relationships with other agencies with similar community goals. The Alliance highlights issues that are having a major effect on the progress of the regions and its communities.

 

Officers are:

 

Chairperson:                    Ray O'Donoghue, Galway County Community Forum

Vice Chairperson:            Tom McGettrick, Sligo Community Forum

Secretary:                        Pierce Butler, Galway County Community Forum:

                                        Contact: piercebutler@googlemail.com  / Mobile 087 2559438

PRO:                                 Donal O'Shea, Mayo County Community Forum

 

OVERVIEW - 2007

 

The parties to this Submission want, in the first place, to acknowledge the many positives arising from the NDP 2000-2006.  Advances on the infrastructural front in the West of Ireland have been very significant.

 

Commitments, wherever acted upon, have been welcomed by the parties to this Submission.  We have welcomed commitments to roads, to our regional airports, to rural transport, Clar programmes, the Western Rail Corridor, the extension of the national gas network, etc., etc. Furthermore, the parties to this Submission pledge full support and co-operation to the Government of the day in endeavours to improve the lot of the community in the West of Ireland.

 

Sometimes improvements do not come at the pace expected in the region and the Council for the West, in appealing for balanced opportunities has had occasion to point out that spending under the National Development Plan in the BMW region has fallen significantly short of allocation.  It is essential that this issue be addressed at Government level so that the gap in economic development as between the West and the rest of the country does not continue to grow.

 

The parties to this Submission herewith call on all political parties to address the following issues and respond on the PRIORITY points as outlined.

 

There are major regional issues that need to be addressed, for example:

 

      JOB CREATION 

The Western Development Commission in its submission to the Consultation on the NDP 2007 - 2013, has drawn attention to the over reliance on the agricultural, forestry, fishing and construction sectors for employment opportunities in the Western Region.

With agriculture and fishing in decline in the Region and a predicted downturn in the house building industry, the adverse impact on employment in the West of Ireland could be very severe. 

PRIORITY: To ensure regional balance by appointment of at least three members from the region to the Boards of each of the following: IDA, Enterprise Ireland, the NRA, Fáilte Ireland, Fás and other such bodies impacting the region

PRIORITY:  To secure Government commitment to ensure delivery on the existing IDA objective to

place 50% of new jobs in the BMW region.

 

INFRASTRUCTURAL DEFICITS

Without proper infrastructure, inward investment will not be maximised.

 

BRAIN DRAIN

 

Although six of the Western counties feature in the top ten for admission rates to higher education, the

brain drain continues at unacceptable levels because of limited employment opportunities.

 

SOCIAL EXCLUSION

 

The Western Development Commission in its submission to the Consultation on the NDP 2007 - 2013, underlines that the incidence and risk of poverty and deprivation has a spatial pattern and is highest in the west and north-western counties. "All counties in the Western Region have a poverty level above the national average, the only exception being Galway city. Donegal, Mayo and Leitrim are the three counties in the state where individuals are most likely to experience poverty and are also among the most rural counties," it argues.

 

All counties in the Western Region have a poverty level above the national average 

This high level of social poverty is being exacerbated by the lack of fundamental services such as, Supermarkets, Banks, ATM Machines and Rural Transport and the withdrawal of Garda Stations and Post Offices. Government has a moral responsibility to maintain the fabric of rural life through leadership that will advance nurturing and caring policies crafted to meet these challenges.

TRANSPORT 21

The improvement of access in all its forms in the Region is imperative if the West is to prosper.

 

Roads are inadequate and public transport is basic. Apart from its many inadequacies, public transport does not link up with airports in the region.

 

The proposed Atlantic Road corridor is acknowledged in the west of Ireland as being one of the key projects for achieving an effective counterbalance to the GDA as set out in the National Spatial Strategy.

 

The delivery of Transport 21 to the West in a comprehensive and timely fashion is of paramount importance if regional balance, competitiveness and safety issues are to be addressed.

 

However Transport 21 has a major flaw in that it is short on specific details and completion dates, with work unlikely to start before 2010, and probably even later in the West Region..

 

PRIORITY:         To ensure regional balance in Transport 21, the Council for the West/Western                            Community Fora Alliance calls for a special Regional Monitoring Committee  to

                          track the effective delivery of Transport 21 in the Region.

 

AIRPORTS

 

The Region is fortunate to have strategically placed international and regional airports which have the potential to enrich the area in so many ways.

 

Ireland West Airport Knock, Shannon Airport, and regional airports in Sligo, Galway and Donegal hold the key to opening up tourism and economic activity throughout the region.

 

Today Ireland West Airport Knock Airport supports 800 jobs in the region and employs 150 people. By 2020 it is reckoned that the Airport will be contributing 200m euro annually in tourism spending.

 

PRIORITY:          In the case of Ireland West Airport Knock, where 500 acres of land await

commercial development, in the region of 3,000 jobs can be created if Government  encourages and

actively works to achieve the development of a major Business Park at this location.

Special Tax Designation for this purpose may provide a means towards achieving this.

RAIL

Transport 21 stresses the desirability of public investment in public transport and especially rail. The Western Region welcomes commitments to the Western Rail Corridor but rejects the 2014 completion date as too  'long-fingered.'  The recent assurance by the Minister for Transport that following the scheduled completion of Phase One of the Rail Corridor from Ennis to Athenry in 2008, the roll-out of the project will continue immediately to Tuam and Claremorris is indeed welcomed.

The true potential of the Western Rail Corridor will only be realised when it is fully re-opened to Sligo, thus linking the North West to the South East and also linking the existing rail lines from Dublin.

PRIORITY:          A commitment from Government to expedite rebuilding the railway from Athenry                           to Claremorris in one go, immediately upon completing the Ennis-Athenry section.

 

PRIORITY:          Immediate announcement of a "railway order" for the Claremorris-Collooney 

                          section.

PRIORITY:         Commitment to rebuild Claremorris-Collooney line in the lifetime of the next                           Government, as a demonstration of its commitment to Balanced Regional

                          Development.                          

PRIORITY:         Public transport connectivity between major cities and towns such as Ennis, Tuam, Castlebar and Ballina.  In linking Sligo to Limerick, fourteen smaller and medium sized towns will be linked to a North-South transport corridor, creating the potential to compete for jobs, attract enterprises and grow tourism. The Western Rail Corridor must provide a link to Ireland West Airport Knock, (only four miles from Charlestown), and Shannon Airport (only 4 miles from Sixmilebridge).

 

PRIORITY:         Acceleration of the building of a new station at Oranmore and the opening of commuter lines to Galway City.

 

ROADS 

It is a fact that the Western Region road network leaves much to be desired.  In its submission to the Consultation on Ireland's National Development Plan 2007 -2013, the Western Development Commission pointed out the inadequacy of the road network in the region north of Galway.  It stated: "At present this area has very few roads of dual carriageway standard and current plans under Transport 21 do not appear to adequately address this issue. The fact that the gateways of Sligo and Letterkenny will be so poorly served by dual carriageway roads will increase the perception of this area as having a very poor road network and impact upon the attractiveness of the area for inward investment.  Also, if the Atlantic Road Corridor is to contribute to an effective economic counterbalance to the east of the country, it needs to be of dual-carriageway standard for its entire length."

PRIORITY:         The Council for the West/Western Community Fora Alliance fully endorses this view and calls on Government to complete the entire Atlantic  Road Corridor project by 2012 at the very latest. 

 

In that context there is an urgent need to accelerate the completion of the N18 from Oranmore to Barefield

It is essential that the main access roads into each county be completed by 2010 and in particular the N5 which is the main artery serving Mayo and Roscommon.

 

The Council for the West/Western Community Fora Alliance also wants recognition of the following roads as key priorities within a defined timeframe:

                            Galway City Ring road

N4                               Carrick on Shannon Bypass

                                    Cloonmahon - Castlebaldwin 

                                    Longford - Drumsna 

N5                               Ballaghaderreen Bypass

N5/N26                       Ballina to Bohola Phase 2

N5                               Frenchpark to Strokestown now at route selection stage.  This section

                                    of road is very urgent and must be fast-tracked, as it is the main access road into

                                    Mayo, East Roscommon and West Sligo.

N5                               Castlebar to Westport

                                    Strokestown Bypass

                                     Longford Bypass

                                    Mullingar to Longford (must be upgraded to motorway status)

N13                             To Lifford

N15                             Sligo - Letterkenny

N16                             Sligo - Enniskillen

N59                           Sligo-Ballina-Bangor-Mulranny-Clifden

Galway City Transport

Traffic congestion in rapidly expanding Galway City is increasingly becoming a growing problem and needs to be addressed immediately.

 

PRIORITY:          A comprehensive and integrated plan for public transport, including Light Rail, Bus Corridors and the redevelopment of the Ceannt Station site as a transport hub for the city must be formulated.  Lessons learned here should also be applied to Sligo, the West’s second city.

 

ENERGY

 

The electricity supply system into the region is inadequate for current requirements not to mind catering for future demands.  Companies operating in the Region are on record as stating that the poor quality and reliability of the electricity infrastructure represents a constraint on large manufacturing enterprises.

 

It is imperative that the network is adequate to meet needs over the next ten years, that it is competitively priced and that it is stable.

 

Power lines must be in place to meet the challenges which lie ahead. With Business Parks being planned for the region, an adequate power supply is a basic requirement to ensure that these parks can attract inward investment.

 

PRIORITY:          The 220KV Line must be extended from Sligo to Ballina, Castlebar, and onto Galway.

 

PRIORITY:          With gas set to flow from the Corrib Field off Erris, there exists a great opportunity to provide a strategic route through the West/NorthWest which will pay dividends in the years ahead. The network must be brought strategically through Connaught to service Knock Airport area, Ballaghaderreen, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, Sligo and onto Donegal.

 

BROADBAND

 

Broadband coverage throughout the region is seriously deficient and is hindering the potential that exists for information and knowledge technologies which are absolutely critical to winning and sustaining investment and competitiveness. Companies in the region are on record as blaming inadequate broadband coverage for hindering investment opportunities in the field.

 

PRIORITY:         Government should make a strategic commitment to 100% Broadband coverage (as in Northern Ireland) throughout Ireland and then put in place the means to deliver it by public and private investment.

HUBS IN WEST

 

The perception of the Council for the West and the Western Community Forum Alliance is that Hubs in the West Region won't get sufficient attention.

 

PRIORITY:         If that perception is to be changed concrete evidence of what is being done to advance the Hub concept must be demonstrated speedily and with decisiveness.

Additionally, we call for Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon to be designated as linked Hubs to provide the dynamism for regeneration in that pivotal area of the region as well as Ennis, Tuam and Castlebar/Ballina.

TOURISM

Tourism is now Ireland’s most important indigenous industry.  Tourism is particularly important to the West of Ireland: because of the West's weak industrial and service sector base, tourism therefore makes a larger contribution and is more important to economic performance in the West than in other regions. Improved Tourism Product has the potential to generate greater regional balance for the West, to quote from the Failte Ireland Tourism Product Development Strategy 2007-2013 report.

 

Whilst Ireland has experienced rapid tourism growth it has been uneven, with Dublin experiencing the fastest rate of growth.  The growth of Ireland West (1990-2003) at 42% ranks 5th of the 7 regions.  Within the Eastern Region, growth rates have also varied considerably.  Galway experiences a 62% growth in overseas tourism revenue over the period 1999-2005.  Donegal and Clare also experiences similar growth rates.  Mayo experienced no growth in this area during 1999-2005, but the trend was reversed in 2006.

 

PRIORITY:          As in job creation and infrastructure, performance of the sector as a whole must be measured against regional targets, otherwise they become meaningless

 

PRIORITY:          Marketing spend should positively discriminate in favour of the West and North West.

DECENTRALISATION

The Government Decentralisation Programme for the Western Region promises 1,925 jobs. The Region desperately wants those jobs to ensure the continuing vibrancy and prosperity of the chosen locations.

 

PRIORITY:         The Council for the West/Western Community Forum Alliance advocates a speedy and full delivery of the Programme as an essential element of community renewal in selected locations in Counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.  Community needs must take precedence over sectional interests. The West needs these jobs.

 

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

 

Government funding for permanent employed caretaker/administrators to support communities in the development of community centres, community offices, youth cafes, etc.

 

Combine Community Enterprise/Rural Social Scheme/Community Support under one Department

 

More user-friendly application forms to replace the average 16-page forms required for Farm Assist and many small grant applications.

 

Commitment to retain and expand the Clar programme which has proved most beneficial to the region.

 

Policies on environmental protection, waste management and water quality are in urgent need of review and implementation.  For instance, the major environmental concerns for Galway City must be resolved.

 

The Council for the West/Western Community Forum Alliance calls on all political parties to respond to this Submission TWO WEEKS before General Election polling day. The responses of all political parties will be published.

 

ALL REPLIES TO:

Caroline Wilson, Co-ordinator,

Council for the West, Killala Business Park, Killala, Co Mayo

Phone: 096 32975 / Fax: 09632014 / Email: cftwest@iol.ie  / Web: www.councilforthewest.ie