May 16, 2023
Claremorris Public Meeting hears frustration at Government failure to tackle Regional Imbalance – Chris MacManus MEP

Claremorris Public Meeting hears frustration at Government failure to tackle Regional Imbalance – Chris MacManus MEP

A public meeting hosted by Chris MacManus MEP in Claremorris last Monday night heard frustration at the failure of successive Governments to tackle the issues of regional imbalance and rural decline. The meeting was held in the McWilliam Park Hotel and featured contributions from Rose Conway-Walsh TD, Cllr Gerry Murray, President of the INHFA Vincent Roddy and former Western Development Commission and Ireland West Airport CEO Liam Scollan.

Speaking following the meeting, Chris MacManus MEP for the Midlands Northwest said:
“I was delighted to host this important meeting in Claremorris tonight and would like to thank our panellists Rose Conway-Walsh TD, Cllr Gerry Murray, Vincent Roddy and Liam Scollan, as well as everyone in attendance. It was a very productive meeting with many interesting contributions and proposals which we will be taking on board and which will inform us in our work as we seek to tackle the issues of regional imbalance and rural decline.”

“It was clear from the meeting that there is huge frustration about successive Government’s failure to address these issues. A lack of investment in infrastructure and key public services and a failure to protect our family farmers were key themes highlighted throughout the meeting. What further adds to that frustration is the mixed messaging coming from the government parties. Recently on Highland Radio, my constituency colleague MEP Maria Walsh highlighted the recently published 2022 EU Regional Competitiveness Index, which found that the Northern and Western region is lagging well behind the other Irish regions and that we are suffering from an infrastructure deficit, particularly in terms of transport and connectivity.”

“MEP Walsh rightly pointed out that this is evidence that the West and North-West of the State are being discriminated against and that investment is needed from Government to address this issue, something I have been highlighting since becoming an MEP.”

“However speaking just days previously to Galway Bay FM’s journalist David Nevin, Walsh’s Fine Gael colleague Minister Simon Coveney rubbished the very same report, stating that it was not an accurate assessment, referencing job growth within the region and claiming that the Government has invested in balanced regional development. He did not suggest that any additional measures were needed to revitalize our region.”

“This is a very dismissive attitude from Minister Coveney to an independent report published by the European Commission. It is one of many reports published over the last few years with similar findings that our region is ‘in transition’, ‘lagging’ and stuck in a ‘development trap.’

“Fine Gael appear to be all over the place on this issue, sending out mixed messages and talking out of both sides of their mouth. That they can’t agree that our region is suffering and in need of positive discrimination after countless reports highlighting this issue is extremely worrying.”

“While I am glad MEP Walsh has finally come to this realisation, she should sit her Fine Gael colleagues down and explain to them why investment is desperately needed to bring our region back on par with the rest of the country. Her words acknowledging the extent of regional imbalance will be of little comfort to people who attended this evening’s meeting and voiced their concerns.”

To compound those concerns, Minister Eamon Ryan has now said that no funding will be available for the Knock-Collooney N17 project. This is a deeply concerning situation but indicative of this governments attitude to our region. In the same meeting, Minister Ryan also outlined that there will be no railway line north of Claremorris in the medium term. It appears that as far as he is concerned, there is no need whatsoever for infrastructural investment in the West of Ireland.”

“There is no doubt that there are huge challenges facing our communities here in the West and the current approach to regional development needs to change urgently in order to ensure that this part of the country has a sustainable future. We need investment and positive discrimination for our region to turn this around.”

“At a European level I will be continuing to fight for greater supports for our region through protecting our access to regional aid, restoring the region to the TEN-T Core Network so that critical infrastructure projects can benefit from EU funding, and a comprehensive investment package for the region, by utilising Cohesion funding, State Aid flexibility, the billion euro allocation of the RRF and the Brexit Fund.” 

“This kind of investment is key for tackling these issues and delivering economic development for County Mayo and our region as a whole. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for fairness and equality for the West at local, national and European levels.” ENDS

See attached photo from the public meeting in McWilliam Park Hotel of (L-R): Liam Scollan, Cllr Gerry Murray, Chris MacManus MEP, Rose Conway Walsh TD, Vincent Roddy

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