Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Is Launched

Newry Mourne and Down District Council to be part of Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor.

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Newry Mourne and Down District Council to be part of Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council is one of eight local authorities from either side of the border which came together today to launch the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor in response to challenges facing the region. These challenges have been identified by a joint report from Dublin City University and Ulster University.

The eight local authorities are:* Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council * Belfast City Council, * Dublin City Council, * Fingal County Council, * Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, * Louth County Council, * Meath County Council, and * Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

The report called: “The Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor: Current Profile, Potential for Recovery & Opportunities for Cooperation”, says that this is an opportune time to create a North-South Economic Corridor given the challenges the region faces as it comes to terms with the impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor Laura Devlin elected Chairperson Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson Councillor Laura Devlin said: “Opportunities exist to grow indigenous business, establish clusters of key sectors, leverage the appetite for collaboration and use the Corridor as the driving force for economic development in the region and nationally.”

In 2018, the eight Councils located along the Corridor and the two Universities came together to work collectively to find ways of realising the potential benefits of further development of the Corridor. This led to the establishment of a Partnership Steering Group made up of the eight Council Chief Executives and the Presidents of the two universities who committed to meeting quarterly.

The Steering Group’s immediate objective is to leverage the network’s resources in areas which can have a positive impact and add significant value to the economic development of the region at a time of great economic and social uncertainty.

A working group of local government and university staff was subsequently formed and tasked with developing a series of cooperative initiatives and projects to begin to realise this objective. The report published today is the first output of their collective work over the past three years.

Following today’s launch and the publication of the Report, the next step will be to establishing working governance structures which will balance oversight and day to day activity. Oversight will be provided by an Oversight and Governance Board. This will comprise of 24 councillors, three from each Council, and they will shortly hold their first meeting to elect a Chair and develop a programme of works.

There is awareness among all those involved in the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Project that developing a strong ethos of co-operation will require time, energy and support. Objectives will be set for achievement in the medium to long-term and based on a realisation that local actions can deliver strategic objectives in a practical way.

Marie Ward, Chief Executive of Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chief Executive, Marie Ward said: “There is awareness among all those involved in the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Project that developing a strong ethos of co-operation will require time, energy and support. Objectives will be set for achievement in the medium to long-term and based on a realisation that local actions can deliver strategic objectives in a practical way.”

The region has a population in excess of 2million people and is younger and more diverse than any other part of Ireland with 15% born off the island. It also has the best educated workforce with 34% of the population holding Third Level qualifications thereby creating an excellent pipeline for concentrations of jobs requiring graduates.

In 2019, there were 125,000 firms located along the Corridor with entrepreneurship and survival rates higher than elsewhere in Ireland and more people employed in mid-sized and large businesses than anywhere else.

Key sectors along the Corridor include Advanced Manufacturing, ICT, Agri-Food, Professional Services, Financial Services, Constructions and Tourism while among the challenges facing the region in the coming years are adapting to Brexit, Climate Change and transformation to a low carbon economy, low population density and an ageing population.

The launch event, which was hosted by economist David McWilliams, featured interviews with Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Conor Murphy MLA; Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD; Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, and Robin Walker MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

Dr Eoin Magennis of University of Ulster and Professor Deiric Ó Broin of Dublin City University who, along with Neale Blair and Jordana Corrigan, researched the subject and developed the report, outlined the strategic vision for what is possible along the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor while Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, and Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council addressed the online audience which was drawn from the political, business and education spheres in both jurisdictions.

A video about the long-standing co-operation between Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council was also shown and featured interviews with Joan Martin, Chief Executive, Louth County Council; Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chief Executive, Mare Ward; Sean O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, STATSports; and Eamon McKey, Chief Operations Officer, Deli Lites.

A moderated panel discussion featuring themes of business, agencies and politics set out the vision for what’s happening and what’s possible and featured AnnMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive, Fingal County Council; Niall McEntegart, Director, Data Center Site Operation (EMEA & APAC), Facebook; Margaret Hearty, Designated Accounting Officer & Director of Business Services, InterTradeIreland; Trevor Lockhart, Chief Executive, Fane Valley Group; and Professor Daire Keogh, President, Dublin City University;

Among the online attendance were the eight leaders of each Council, councillors from across the region and the eight Council Chief Executives as well as members of their senior management teams.

Border Chambers Welcome Launch Of Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Initiative.

Dundalk and the Newry and Drogheda Chambers have welcomed welcome the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Initiative launched today. Chief Executive Officer of Newry Chamber of Commerce &Trade, Colm Shannon, said: “We are the region in the centre of that corridor, the fillet, and have long worked together promoting the region as a whole.”

Speaking after today’s launch, Mr Shannon added: “Newry Chamber welcomes the launch of the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Initiative, which clearly demonstrates the potential of a region with a population of over 2million.

“Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda Chambers and the two local councils already have good working relationships. Post-Brexit and COVID-19, these relationships will provide a platform for future economic cooperation and growth.

“We have the people, the skills and the infrastructure to attract future investment and grow the economy both sides of the border. The growth of the hybrid working model will also make our region an attractive place to live and work.”

The three chambers welcome how the initiative has clearly set out the benefits of the region.

The region provides

  • 2,300,000 living within an hour’s drive with many having third level plus and other skilled qualifications;
  • excellent broadband;
  • three international airports,
  • 7 universities/third level and two deep water ports.
  • Ian investment ready region capable of supporting green field Foreign Direct Investment projects; second locations or companies that require a presence in one or both locations post-Brexit.
  • second locations from 200 plus to a small hub of 5 to 10 working in small units.

The three chambers have a long and successful record of assisting both established and potential businesses in establishing or enhancing their position in the area.

The region also offers ready access to both Dublin and Belfast and still offers a high quality of life with mountains;,sea and countryside to explore.

The tourism offering from the UNESCO world site at Newgrange to the mountains of Mourne sweeping down to the sea into Carlingford Lough is a relatively underdeveloped product.

Over the years the Chambers have run 5 annual conferences on Brexit; collaboration on Skillsnet and other training and for many years a tourism conference in April focusing on supporting our tourism providers.

Mr Shannon added: “We look forward to working with the Shared Island Project which we have already started to engage with Chambers Ireland and the Department of An Taoiseach.”

Dublin-Belfast Corridor offers great economic potential says Murphy.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed the launch of ‘The Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor: Current Profile, Potential for Recovery & Opportunities for Cooperation’ report.

Minister Murphy was speaking at a virtual conference where the report was published. He said: “I want to commend the eight councils from the North and South for coming together to produce this landmark report. The report shows that by operating and marketing itself as a single economic unit, the Corridor can galvanise domestic growth and attract FDI.

“It is important that the Corridor drives balanced economic growth across the island. For example a high-speed Belfast to Dublin train should be part of an all-Ireland rail network that includes Derry, Cork, and Limerick.”

“This report highlights tremendous opportunities. An action plan is needed so that the Corridor can form part of an investment-led recovery from Covid and post-Brexit.

The Strengths and Potential of the Corridor.

  • The population of the Corridor is 2 million. And this is growing fast.er than elsewhere on the island of Ireland. Since 2006 there has been a 12% increase and it is expected to reach 2.5m million by 2040.
  • There is a younger and more diverse population (15% born out of Ireland) with a concentration at either end.)
  • There is a buoyant lablour market. In 2019 with 970,000 residents at work (rising to one million on the eve on Covid -19 and just over 1 million jobs available along the corridor (59% in the two cities) driving commuting patterns and demand for migrants.
  • Employment rates of residents are above the island average and inactivity is less – but there are pockets of disadvantage and un/under employment stand out.
  • 125,000 firms with entrepreneurship and survival rates higher than elsewhere on the island of Ireland (less so in NI) and more people employed in mid-sized and large businesses than elsewhere on the island.
  • 34% have Third Level qualifications higher than elsewhere and the majority of those enrolled studying on the Corridor – therefore a good pipeline for the concentrations of jobs requiring graduates.
  • Opportunity in the initiatives and investments which will flow from the Belfast Region City Deal and the Ireland 2040 plans.