European Parliament Regional Development Committee Chair Meets Northern and Western Regional Assembly Officials
Chair of the European Parliament Regional Development Committee, Younous Omarjee MEP, recently visited Ireland at the invitation of Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest. Omarjee was visiting on a fact-finding mission to examine how the EU can play a positive role in addressing regional imbalance in Ireland.
MacManus and Omarjee met with Northern and Western Regional Assembly Director Denis Kelly and Senior Planner Conall McGettigan in Stranorlar. Regional assemblies make decisions about strategic planning, EU funding and they help co-ordinate the work of local authorities.
Speaking afterwards, MEP Omarjee said:
“I am pleased to be in Ireland this week at the invitation of my colleague, Chris MacManus, in my capacity as Chair of the European Parliament’s Regional Development Committee. I am here to meet with regional stakeholders such as the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, examine the positive role EU funding has played in the Northern and Western region, and to discuss how the EU can contribute towards addressing the decline of the west and northwest of Ireland.
“It was very informative to meet with the regional assembly and discuss some of the challenges affecting the west and northwest of Ireland. I was aware of some of the challenges facing this region, as a recent report from my Committee found that this region is caught in a development trap, but nonetheless the statistics presented on the decline of this region were very stark. It is clear that urgent action is required. Addressing infrastructural deficits in particular will be key to the future development of this region. I will be continuing to work closely with Chris MacManus at European level to ensure that the EU play a positive role in addressing regional imbalance in Ireland.
MEP MacManus said:
“I am pleased to welcome Younous Omarjee to Ireland this week. He chairs a very powerful Committee in the European Parliament, which is especially important for us here in the west of Ireland given the need for European funding to address infrastructural deficits in our region.
“The Northern and Western Regional Assembly play a crucial role in the administration of EU funding and planning development in our region. They have consistently outlined the challenges that our region faces and the need for positive discrimination from our Government to address the decline of the West and Northwest.
“Our region has been downgraded by the EU to being one ‘in transition’. We have also been described as ‘lagging’ and caught in a development trap. The Regional Competitiveness Index, which was published in recent weeks, found that the Northern and Western region is ranked 218th out of 234 European regions in terms of infrastructure. This places the region in the bottom 7 percent, alongside some of the poorest regions in the EU such as Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria.
“These are extremely worrying indicators and should be setting off alarm bells in Dublin. Unfortunately the Irish Government appears to be indifferent to the decline of our region, with Leo Varadkar dismissing the challenges the region faces in the Dáil this week.
“Investing in infrastructure such as the Western Rail Corridor is absolutely critical to the future of our region and will play a key role in attracting investment and high quality jobs. I have been calling for Cohesion funding, State Aid flexibility, the billion euro allocation of the RRF and the Brexit Fund to be used to offer a ready-made investment package to provide for this.
“People in the West and Northwest should not be treated as second class citizens. The current approach to regional development needs to change urgently in order to ensure that this part of the country has a sustainable future. ENDS
See attached photograph from the Northern and Western Regional Assembly offices in Stranorlar of (L-R): Chris MacManus MEP, Denis Kelly (Director), Younous Omarjee MEP, Conall McGettigan (Senior Planner)