Lack of digital investment threatens northwest, business group warns

Galway Chamber welcomes development plan but underlines need for infrastructure

 The Project Ireland 2040 plan was “largely silent on digital infrastructure” for the northwest, Galway Chamber of Commerce said.

The Project Ireland 2040 plan was “largely silent on digital infrastructure” for the northwest, Galway Chamber of Commerce said.

 

Ireland’s northwest region is at risk of being “marooned on the edge of the Atlantic” if there is not sufficient investment in connectivity, a leading west of Ireland business grouping has warned.

Galway Chamber of Commerce said that while road developments were addressed for parts of the region in Project Ireland 2040, the plan was “largely silent on digital infrastructure”.

It also said the National Development Plan growth “enablers” for Galway city were “underwhelming”, and expressed disappointment that the city’s port development was omitted.

Whereas major projects for other cities had been included in the plan, the growth enablers for Galway were only vaguely defined and lacked vision for the largest city in the west of Ireland, its president, Maurice O’Gorman, said.

The chamber said it welcomed the aim of balanced regional development, to reduce Dublin’s growing economic domination, and to improve the State’s infrastructure.

“If Galway is to take advantage of the funding provided for in the plan, such as the rural and urban regeneration and development fund (€2 billion), we quickly need to develop a spatial plan for Galway Airport site, station, docks and Headford Road and, we would argue, Nuns’ Island,” it said in a statement.

“We need a vision and spatial plan that recognises our uniqueness, our culture, our world-class life sciences and technology clusters, and our higher-education institutions,”it says.

While it welcomed the plan’s acknowledgement of Galway as Ireland’s most rapidly developing urban area for half a century, and commitment to the new Galway ring road, it is critical of the lack of support for port development and creation of an innovation in the city’s heart.

Growth enablers

It says the plan’s stated “enablers of growth for Galway” can be largely viewed as “plumbing”, as in fixing existing problems such as traffic congestion at Parkmore, delivering drainage, water supply, energy and determining the development of the Galway Airport site.

The plan’s stated commitment to the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) has been welcomed by the Galway Chamber, and by the corridor grouping which represents business groups from Kerry to Derry.

Mike Devane of Galway Chamber’s AEC group said it was a recognition of the potential to develop the region.

“We believe we are going to double the population of the western region in the next 20 to 30 years, and for that we believe we need infrastructure,” Mr Devane said. This would include extension of phase two of the western rail corridor from Athenry to Tuam, and phase three to Claremorris, Co Mayo.

The plan has promised an immediate independent review of the rail corridor extension, and said that “if the findings of the review are approved by Government, the project will be prioritised during this plan”.

Mr Devane said the AEC group was convinced that the economy was going to change in the next couple of decades, with marine becoming one of the biggest resources through development of offshore wave energy, and creation of an agrifood sector in the west and northwest.

Infrastructure was vital to ensure developments could take place which would allow for a growing population, he said. As an example, opening the rail link between Claremorris and Athenry – at relatively low cost – could allow a developing freight business between the northwest and south to move more efficiently, he said.

Rail was the only viable option to remove freight from the road and reduce carbon emissions, he noted.