CIVIC leaders from both Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council took the opportunity to highlight the substantial progress being made in the North West City Region on achieving the region’s priorities for growth, at a meeting with senior government officials in Dublin Castle on Wednesday.
The meeting of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership which is made up of senior officials from Government Departments in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with a special focus on the Derry, Strabane and Letterkenny City region heard first-hand how the strong collaborative regional approach is driving forward growth and development in this cross-border region.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr. Michaela Boyle acknowledged the support of central governments in both parts of the island for the North West Strategic Growth Partnership.
She said: “We have a long history of cross-border connections in the North West region and to see this approach being formalised and supported by central government is a massive step forward for us in realising our untapped potential as a region.
“Aligning our regional strategic priorities with those of central government allows for more targeted economic growth and investment contributing in a positive and meaningful way to social and community cohesion and wellbeing.”
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Nicholas Crossan believes that this cross-border regional approach is reaping dividends for the North West City Region.
He said: “The support for the ambitions of the North West City Region is clearly evident among those attending this meeting of the Strategic Growth Partnership.
“Having this focus on the North West City Region in Dublin and having senior government officials working in a co-ordinated and concerted way on the region’s priorities is to be welcomed by everyone concerned.
“We are only at the beginning of our journey, but already we can see progress being made.
Representatives from the Irish Business Employers Confederation, the Confederation of British Industry NI and IBEC/CBI Joint Council presented on how working with business and industry is delivering opportunities for growth in the North West City Region.
They spoke about the importance of utilising the opportunities available to strengthen existing partnerships that will allow the Donegal, Derry and Strabane areas to build on their strategic strengths.
It was suggested the region extend the City Region scope to connect with other hubs such as Galway and Limerick, while ensuring there is a robust and co-ordinated framework that can underpin cross-border public and private investment.
The Regional Innovation Partners which include Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Donegal ETB, Ulster University and the North West Regional College working with both Councils outlined details on emerging opportunities to deliver economic growth through regional innovation pathways.Among the ambitious plans are the expansion of the Ulster University Magee Campus, the creation of a UniverCity, and the advancement of key City Deal projects that includes the Medical Entry School and projects relating to personalised medicine, data analytics and advanced robotics to be underpinned by state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.
Discussions also took place in relation to the emerging Climate Action and Adaptation policies and how the North West City Region can deliver on national priorities in these emerging areas.
John Kelpie Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council explained that the North West Region of the Island of Ireland is the fourth largest urban agglomeration on the island.
He added: “the North West Strategic Growth Partnership is proving to be a vital mechanism in enabling the alignment of strategic policy and resource allocation in such a way that allows the region to realise it’s full and considerable potential as a net contributor to the economy North and South and in an East – West context.”
Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council said: “We are steadfast in our approach to developing a City region that is thriving, sustainable and prosperous and while challenges remain substantial progress has been made with a number of key strategic infrastructural and regeneration projects underway.”