“We have come through the recession, and what we can achieve and deliver over the next few years will dictate if the region can overcome the challenges of its past and show to the world the type of great place to live and work that we believe it is.”
The words of Frank O’Regan, Chair of the South East Regional Enterprise Plan, leapt out of the 50-page report published and launched by the Government in Waterford on Friday last.
And his were not the only welcome words we heard at WIT’s Applied Technology Building, where the Regional Enterprise Plan was formally launched by Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
While sporting rivalry is part and parcel of regional life, the political tensions along county boundaries has, by and large, done regional co-operation and recovery a gross disservice.
So to hear Kilkenny-based TD, WIT graduate and Minister of State attest to Waterford city’s primacy as capital of the South East on Friday last, given the still recent tensions caused by the Boundary Commission made for a welcome declaration. During his speech, Frank O’Regan referred to the “sense of unity” which has been established through initiatives such as the Action Plan for Jobs, the document which this 2020 Enterprise Plan Report was largely built upon.
Adding that the collegiate efforts of the Region’s local authority Chief Executives was “a joy to behold,” Mr O’Regan also welcomed the creation of the Ireland South East Development Office, the first office of its kind to be opened in the State. Focusing on industry clusters, increasing innovation within the region and a fresh marketing of the South East, Mr O’Regan said that supporting positivity throughout the five counties was another integral element in helping to engineer a more prosperous future.
“Speaking with one voice is so much more powerful,” he added. “To hear Minister Phelan talk about Waterford as capital of the city region – how powerful is that? He wears Black and Amber, but who’s going to stop us if we can talk in that way as a region? Galway do it brilliantly, Limerick has got its act together – and Clare, really well – as have elements in South Tipp. Again, we should be doing the same and having the same ambition.”
Focusing on industry clusters already in place, and with “tremendous projects in the offing,” Mr O’Regan also said the 10th anniversary of the South East Applied Materials Centre (SEAM), which was also marked on Friday last, was a prime example of cross-county and cross-industry co-operation, combining knowledge bases to further research and create jobs.
Stressing the need for co-operation in research and development, through industry and tourism, all of last Friday’s speakers stressed the significance of togetherness among business, agricultural, social and political leaders, reaching across county boundaries and reserving rivalries for the sporting fray.
The delivery of a fit for purpose and adequately funded Technological University will be hampered by any political considerations and one hopes that sense of togetherness will extend to delivering the best possible and practical academic result for the five counties of the South East. Directly addressing Minister Humphreys in his closing comment, Frank O’Regan stated: “What I’d like to say is that, in the future, Minister, our hands will be up, not out.” Let’s hope for better times ahead for each of this region’s five counties. We truly are better together.