- Stimulus package of €570 million needed in the short term.
- Policy of ‘positive discrimination’ should be applied to rejuvenate the region.
- Citizens Assembly should be established to consider regional autonomy.
The Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s (NWRA) Pre-Budget 2024 submission is calling for the delivery of 3 high-level priorities to support the delivery of balanced regional development in Ireland and to reduce regional inequalities in Ireland. These priorities are as follows:
- Provide a stimulus package for the Northern and Western Region: Such a stimulus package should amount to 2 per cent of the Northern and Western Region’s economy, which would amount to a package of €570 million and should be provided between now and the end of the current EU funding period of 2027.
- Adopt a policy of “Positive Discrimination” for the National Development Plan (NDP): Adopting a policy of “Positive Discrimination” towards the Northern and Western Region would be achieved by:
- Prioritising the delivery of infrastructure projects in the Northern and Western Region that are currently identified and committed to in the NDP.
- Increasing the level of capital expenditure committed to under the NDP in order to deliver other projects of scale for the Northern and Western Region.
- Reform the public spending code in a manner that reflects the comparative disadvantage of the Northern and Western Region, having regard to legacy underinvestment and the need to address its weak urban structure.
- Explore how greater regional autonomy can be delivered in Ireland: Budget 2024 should ensure sufficient resources are made available to examine how a process of regional decentralisation can take place, thereby ensuring greater regional autonomy can be implemented in Ireland from a public policy perspective. To achieve this, the Oireachtas could develop a Citizens Assembly to examine how greater levels of regional autonomy could be implemented in Ireland.
The NWRA is calling for the delivery of these priorities due to the fact that regional disparities in Ireland are rising. This is evident from the fact that the the gap in disposable income per head of population between the Northern and Western Region and the Eastern and Midlands Region of Ireland – as a percentage of the State average – was 25 percentage points in 2021, which was much wider than the corresponding gap in 2010 – which was 10 percentage points. Furthermore, the region is underperforming compared to Irish and European counterparts in areas key to developing high-valued economic growth – particularly in the area of infrastructure – with the region ranks 218th out of 234 regions in the EU27 in terms of infrastructure.
John Daly, Economist with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly noted that:
“A legacy of underinvestment continues to inhibit the growth ambitions of the Northern and Western Region of Ireland. Without access to modern road, public transport, health and port services, our region will never be able to provide a meaningful counterbalance to the rapid expansion of the Greater Dublin Area and avoid the overconcentration of population in the east of Ireland. That’s why we are calling on the Government to provide the Northern and Western Region with a €570m stimulus package to kickstart high valued development and save the region from its economic stagnation.
“Our proposal for a multi-million-euro stimulus package would support projects and initiatives designed to stimulate high-value economic activity in the Northern and Western Region of Ireland, helping to ensure our region becomes smarter in how we educate and train people, more specialised in the types of enterprise we attract and more urban in how we grow our housing stock.
NWRA Director Denis Kelly commented: “It’s important that the Government recognise the specific economic challenges we face in the Northern and Western region as well as the opportunity that such a stimulus package would present in terms of rebalancing development for the benefit of the country as a whole. Failure to do so, will see population and employment to be overly concentrated in the Greater Dublin Area, to the detriment of the rest of the country.”
Councillor John Naughten, Cathaoirleach of the NWRA, said: “Ireland’s Northern and Western region has for decades suffered from underinvestment in critical enabling infrastructure. This time we cannot afford to have history repeat itself. An economic stimulus would give the region a once in a lifetime opportunity to reverse economic malaise and give our young people hope for a better future, in this region.”