By Dan Walsh
The first-of-its-kind South East First Citizens Accord has created a Forum of the First Citizens from Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford who are coming together with the key goal of addressing the structural challenges faced by the South East.
The region is particularly vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic having had the highest regional unemployment rate coming into the crisis. The Accord agrees on immediate common priorities for the region that can aid economic recovery coming out of the Covid-19 crisis and can address the historical imbalance in State funding and engagement with the South East.
The First Citizens invited the regional TDs and Senators to attend a meeting today, (Friday) where the priorities were presented and the need for each outlined. There was strong support among the Oireachtas members to align behind these critical issues, many of which they are currently and actively engaged on. The seven priorities are:
1. Technological University of South East – €250 million investment by 2025.
2. A €30m region-specific South East Innovation Fund.
3. Investment in South East Ports and more strategic collaboration between them: Government support is required to develop the South East ports (Rosslare and Belview, Waterford) as strategic national solutions to Brexit, to take advantage of their huge potential as offshore wind hubs and to act as drivers of the region’s economy.
4. 40 new IDA companies in South East and new IDA property in each county by 2024.
5. A specific Enterprise Ireland Regional Director for South East: The South East is one of the only regions in Ireland without a specific Enterprise Ireland Regional Director.
6. Accelerate upgrades of N24 and N80 road connections: The South East requires upgrades on its road connectivity to the west and internally. The N24 upgrade needs to be progressed and the route should also be seriously examined as an alternative motorway route to the proposed N20 development.
7. Provision of a 24/7 Cardiac Care Centre for the South East.: The announcement of the appointment of the contractor to build the second Cath Lab in UHW is very welcome and we now need to ensure that this translates to comprehensive delivery of 24/7 cardiac care service to ensure that patients do not have to travel long distances for urgent care.
Speaking on behalf of the people of Wexford, Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council, Cllr. Ger Carthy said; “There are a number of serious issues that need addressing in Wexford and the wider South East region. By coming together and signing up to the First Citizen’s Accord, it will afford us a much stronger position when we are looking to progress issues such investment in Rosslare Port and a University for the South East for our Wexford citizens.”
The five Local Authorities in the Region have increased their collaboration over the past five years and have resourced the Ireland South East Development Office (ISEDO). ISEDO manages the delivery of the South East Regional Enterprise Plan and facilitates collaboration among industry and public agencies within the region.
The signing of the First Citizens’ Accord now builds on this work by ensuring political cohesion on key priorities. The five First Citizens in the Region are: Cllr. Tom O’Neill, Carlow; Cllr. Andrew McGuinness, Kilkenny; Cllr. Michael Smith, Tipperary; Cllr. Damien Geoghegan, Waterford; and Cllr. Ger Carthy, Wexford. The Forum will operate a rotating Chair
Full details can be found atwww.irelandsoutheast.com