Ireland’s oldest regional brand, ‘The Sunny South East’, is undergoing a welcome and long overdue renewal in terms of cross-county promotion and local authority co-operation, according to Minister of State John Paul Phelan (FG). Speaking at a Budget 2019 briefing in Kilkenny Castle, the Minister of State told the gathering: “We lost track of that brand over the last 20 years, but there are now a number of developing scenarios in the region, be it at third level (via the Technological University level) and enhanced co-operation at local authority level in terms of building our region”.
Minister Phelan added: “We have a range of assets available now in terms of infrastructure through our motorway connections to Dublin, either built or being built, taking the New Ross and Enniscorthy Bypass into account, two international ports (at Belview and Rosslare) and we’ve the airport in Waterford that requires a runway extension and we have proximity to Dublin and, now crucially, to Europe through those ports and we are, I hope, poised to capitalise.”
This region-building sentiment is shared by Frank O’Regan, who chairs the South East’s Action Plan for Jobs (APJ), who has hailed the “forward thinking Chief Executives in each of the local authorities (who) have committed to creating an economic development office in the South East which focuses on leveraging regional economies of scale and fostering collaboration within the region”.
Writing in the latest edition of Waterford Chamber’s ‘Connect’ magazine, Mr O’Regan noted the appointment of new director Alan Quirke, who has joined “the exiting Project Executive, Richard Hurley, to create an initial staff of two”. Taking the growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) across the South East into account (the largest growth recorded by the IDA on regional basis in 2017), Mr O’Regan is encouraged by the “innovation and ambition” of the relevant regional stakeholders.
“A greater sense of being part of the South East is becoming noticeable,” he added. “We need to maintain the positive activity of everyone involved in job creation in the region and we need concerted state support to deliver the game-changers (such as the North Quays and Waterford Airport).” Reflecting on changing regional trends, Minister Phelan also stated: “The other thing worth pointing out is that in the last three or four months, I think the figure now stands at 80 per cent in terms of the level of jobs now being created outside of the Greater Dublin region versus inside Dublin and I think that is largely because of the pressures within Dublin. But Ireland 2040 has also set these population targets for the cities and regions alike; now these are not absolute, set in stone inhibitors on development in certain already highly populated parts of the country.”
He added: “But what it does indicate is that we want, for example, the population of Waterford city to grow by 80 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years. Much of that will happen in County Kilkenny (Ferrybank and its environs) and one of the more prominent developments in recent months has seen the Chief Executive and Chair, along with the members of both Kilkenny County Council and Waterford City & County Council, lodging a joint application for the Urban Regeneration Development Fund (URDF) under the National Planning Framework, for over €100 million for the redevelopment of the North Quays of Waterford, which also takes in Ferrybank and on into (the southernmost part of) Kilkenny, and that type of co-operation into the future is underpinned by the Government under the Planning Framework so we’re at a good juncture in terms of regional development and co-operation.”