Move to strengthen western development body welcomed
"In my job we have been looking at cross-Border economic initiatives. Now, after Omagh, we are all thrown back to the security issue." Thus spoke Mr Liam Scollan, chief executive of the Western Development Commission, welcoming the Government's decision to establish the body as a statutory agency.
The draft Bill strengthening the commission's role will go before the Oireachtas in the autumn. The legislation enables the commission to work with different government departments to foster greater economic development in the west and north-west. It also empowers it to manage the £25 million western investment fund.
Mr Sean Tighe, the commission's chairman, said: "This is a major step forward for the west. The legislation means that the commission will have a strong influence in devising policies that create jobs, encourage growth and build infrastructure."
The Government move comes after Mr Scollan threatened to resign over lack of support and funding.
Established in January 1997, the commission was set up as one of several initiatives dating back to the western bishops' report. It was most recently preceded by the Western Partnership Board.
Mr Scollan said that a major priority of the commission would be the maximisation of EU funding for western development needs and opportunities after the year 2000.