Western Bishops appeal for fair share of capital investment
Bishops in the West of Ireland have expressed serious concern that the much-discussed National Roads and Public Transport capital envelopes may not contain a fair share for the disadvantaged BMW Region.
The Bishops, who are members of the Council for the West, have issued a statement appealing to the Government to ensure that the capital envelopes, especially public transport, will include a fair share for the vital infrastructure programme.
Bishop Christy Jones, Bishop of Elphin, spokesman for the Bishops said "the National Roads and Public Transport capital envelopes are estimated to be €20bn, and the BMW Region expects 40% of that, on a similar ratio as the NDP. That equates to €8bn for the BMW region and as we have a government commitment to balanced regional development we appeal that it be fully honoured," he said.
"However, that is not happening at the moment. Much progress has been achieved, but the gap is actually widening between East and West by the day. What is happening is not working," he added.
The Bishops say they are extremely concerned that effective action is taken to bring about balanced regional development.
"Up to now there has been some ring fencing of structural funds, mainly forced by Europe. But from now on there will be very limited structural funding. We are calling on the Government to ensure balanced regional development is put in place and resources are ring fenced for the underdeveloped part of the country. Otherwise, say the Bishops, there will be decreased investment for the region".
"Achievement of regional balance must become a much stronger national objective rather than an EU policy objective. It is in the national interest that there is a better, more balanced spatial distribution of people and economic activity. The latest CSO population forecast for Dublin is 2.1m by 2021. In this context, the Western Bishops appeal to the Government to consider carefully the regional share of spending under the 10 year public infrastructure programme, to be decided on shortly by the Government.
The Bishops warn against a knee jerk reaction of investing the bulk of the monies in East coast infrastructure at the expense of other regions. "There is a tendency to put further investment into already congested areas to alleviate that congestion, when the real solution is to put the
investment elsewhere, making other areas attractive as identified in the National Spatial Strategy." The Western Bishops call for vision from Government and actions from them that match their commitment to regional balance so as to deliver balanced growth in Ireland and a better society for all.
It is estimated that there is already a €2bn underspend in the BMW Region, in the five years of the NDP to date, and this is seriously affecting the region's ability to attract Foreign Direct Investment.
"It is", say the Bishops, "equivalent to the Government putting its hand into the pockets of the people of the BMW region and giving €2,000 million to a region that has almost double the GDP".
"This under spend has been happening over the past number of years with very little interest from the national media. If a section of Dublin was wronged in the same way it would be on every news bulletin and newspaper for weeks."
The Western Bishops said they are appealing in the strongest possible manner to the Government, and especially the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste, and key ministers to approve capital envelopes that provide a fair share (of 40%) and ring fenced with time bound targets for delivery to the BMW Region.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Spokesperson for the Western Bishops: Most Rev. Dr. Christy Jones Tel: 071 916 2670 /
071 9150106 / 087 2206657 Email: email@example.com
Chairman: Sean Hannick, Killala, Tel: 096 32255 / 087 2564824,
Vice Chairman: Declan O'Callaghan, Ballaghadereen, Tel: 09498 60013, 087 2435011,
Public Relations Officer: Terry Reilly 086 8109518/ 096 21603/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Administrator: Caroline Wilson, Tel 096 32975 / email: email@example.com
Council for the West Background
* 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
1987: Western Bishops issue pastoral letter on Emigration.
1987-90: Rising levels of unemployment and emigration. Requests to Bishops to intervene e.g. South Galway on plight of farmers, North Mayo on emigration.
1991: Bishops organise major conference in Galway. The keynote speaker was John Hume.
Movement called 'Developing the West Together' launched. Core groups set up in
1992: European Funding for socio-economic study of the West.
1994: 'Crusade for Survival' (Report on study) launched. Government sets up task force to make recommendations.
Action plan published.
Establishment of the Council for the West by Bishops.
Establishment of the Western Development Commission by Government.
Successful campaign for retention of Objective 1 Status for the region.
Ongoing campaign towards achieving balanced regional development and highlight issues of major concern for the region.
Council for the West, Asahi Business Park, Killala, Co. Mayo. Tel: 096 32975, Fax: 096 32014, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: www.cftwest.com, Charitable Status No.: CHY 10724, Developing the West Together Limited Registered No.: 197197
Members: Chairman: Sean Hannick, Vice-Chairman: Declan O'Callaghan, Treasurer: Ray O'Donoghue, Secretary: Michael McGarrigle,
Seamus Caulfield, John Connolly, Most Rev Bishop Thomas Finnegan (Hon. Member), Most Rev Bishop John Fleming, Tom Garvey, Mildred Gilmore,
Most Rev Bishop Christy Jones, Ellen Keane, John Kearney, Joe Killeen, Terry Reilly, Sean Sweeney. Administrator: Caroline Wilson.
Patrons: Most Rev. Bishop Philip Boyce, Most Rev. Bishop Thomas Flynn, The Right Rev. C A Henderson, Most Rev. Bishop John Kirby,
Most Rev. Bishop James McLoughlin, Most Rev. Archbishop Michael Neary, Most Rev. Bishop Colm O'Reilly, Most Rev. Bishop Leo O'Reilly,
Most Rev. Bishop Willie Walsh.