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Minister Roche Addresses Joint Meeting of Regional Assemblies

Press Release - Tueday 28th March 2006


Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche TD,addressed a joint meeting of Ireland's two Regional Assemblies - the Border, Midland and Western and Southern and Eastern at a special meeting in Wicklow on Friday March 24th.

Addressing the Assembly members, Minister Roche outlined the changed environment in which the Regional Assemblies now operate. He stated that due to improved economic circumstances, Ireland no longer qualified for higher levels of EU aid. The Minister paid tribute to the work of both Assemblies as Managing Authorities for the Regional Operational Programmes and congratulated the Assemblies for their proactive approach in relation to the preparation of the next Regional Operational Programmes. "The Government recognises the role and contribution of the Assemblies and the high calibre of work undertaken by you in managing complex programmes," he stated. He re-affirmed the Government‚s commitment to take account of the National Spatial Strategy in preparing the NDP and stated that he looked forward to receiving the Assemblies submissions. The Minister also addressed the issue of cohesion of the arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered and also the need to translate rural development priorities into practical initiatives for the benefit of rural areas.

In her address on behalf of both Assemblies, Cllr Mary Freehill, Cathaoirleach of the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly emphasised the positive role played by the two Regional Assemblies since they became Managing Authorities for the Regional Operational Programmes under the NDP. Cllr Freehill said that the Regional Assemblies should be given a greater role in the development of cultural, social and economic policies. She highlighted the fact that the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy is being overseen at a national level with little or no input from regional representatives and she called on the Minister to address this. Cllr Freehill also identified the need for more integrated multi-agency planning for future development needs and investment. Cllr Freehill noted that much of the current problems such as congestion and over-demand for public services have occurred because of the lack of such integrated planning.

Councillor Michael McGreal, Cathaoirleach of the Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly emphasised the Assemblies support for the continuation of balanced regional development as a core objective of the next NDP, and also called for effective mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that each region benefits fully from the next NDP. Councillor McGreal stated that "ring-fencing provides a very useful mechanism for ensuring that the needs of all regions are met" and called for the ring-fencing of capital envelopes for each of the regions going forward. Councillor McGreal called for greater investment in broadband infrastructure and the bringing forward of investment in the Western Rail Corridor under Transport 21. He also called for greater involvement by the Regional Assemblies in the co-ordination and monitoring of the National Spatial Strategy.

Responding to issues raised at the meeting, Minister Roche stated that he was confident that the Regional Assemblies will have a "clear and focused role in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing regional development over the coming years" and he wished the Assemblies every success in the future.








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