The “failure to stitch in a commitment” to the delivery of balanced regional development is “a black hole at the heart” of the new National Development Plan (NDP). 

Independent TD Marian Harkin said that a “basic premise for the delivery of the NDP is predicated on a city-based approach which envisages a 50% population growth in four cities outside of Dublin”.

“Given that only one of those cities, Galway, is in the northern and western region, this means that the gap between the southern region and eastern and midland region and the northern and western region – which is already significant – will widen,” the Sligo-Leitrim TD explained.

“I have no issue with significant population growth in cities outside of Dublin to provide a counterbalance to Dublin, but the only city earmarked for that type of growth is Galway city, which is at the southern tip of the northern and western region. 

“This completely ignores a huge swathe of territory north of a line from Dublin to Galway and disregards the northwest and the border counties entirely. 

“Yes of course, there are rural programmes and certain initiatives for towns and villages throughout the entire country, but this type of investment, while welcome, will be completely insufficient for the northern and western region to grow at the same rate as other regions, never mind close the ever-widening gap.”

Uncertainty of NDP project delivery

The deputy said that this gap has been identified “time and time again”, and that underinvestment in the region by successive governments has “resulted in the northern and western region being downgraded by the EU Commission from a ‘Developed Region’ to a ‘Region in Transition’”.

“The northern and western region needs positive discrimination to catch up on decades of underinvestment, but there is no sign of this in the NDP,” she continued.

“When we add this to the uncertainty regarding the delivery of any projects in the plan, this means there is no strategy to deliver on balanced regional development.

“There are a number of tests that all projects must undergo, including value for money and climate impact assessments. 

“These are necessary, but so is a test on regional proofing, an assessment on whether the investment being approved contributes to or works against balanced regional development.

“This was a final opportunity for this government to integrate a policy of balanced regional development into our NDP. 

“They have failed to do so in any meaningful or strategic way, and I am hugely disappointed at this failure.”