Over 150 people attended today’s Driving Growth in the North West conference in An Grianan Hotel, Burt to consider the region’s response to the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Frances Ruane urged the North West region to have a ‘no regrets‘ approach when it comes to responding to the Brexit challenges.
Dr Ruane, who is a former Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute, said: ‘I am very impressed by what the North West region is doing and how well it is set up. All macro economics is ultimately micro and the North West region should do all they can at this point in time to realise their vision for the North West City region, irrespective of Brexit. ‘
Donegal County Council’s Cathaoirleach Cllr Terence Slowey in his opening address said: “Our region is at last beginning to get its just recognition whether it’s the many attributes and successes of the city or indeed my own Donegal being named last week by National Geographical on The Cool List of 17 of 2017.
“We are looking forward to a hugely successful year for tourism in the north west and today’s conference will help us realise this potential.’
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Alderman Hilary McClintock, referring to the recent joint trade delegation to Boston said: “the visit and the outcomes from it served as a very strong signal of the potential that exists in the north west region at this time. Our region has very ambitious and resilient businesses. It has excellent colleges and a university who work hard to ensure that the skills needed are being developed at this important time.’
Setting the scene for the conference both Chief Executives of Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council outlined the new and innovative working arrangements that allow both Councils to work collaboratively and to engage in a meaningful way with Central Government on both sides of the border.
Loretta McNicholas from Donegal County Council and Michael Gallagher from Derry City and Strabane District Council outlined the findings of a Scoping Exercise undertaken recently to provide the local context for the challenges and opportunities that Brexit presents.
The conference also heard from Dr Katy Hayward from Queen’s University of Belfast on the impact of Brexit on the free movement of people across our border and made a number of suggestions of innovative arrangements and solutions that could be considered for this region.
Ulster University’s Dr Eoin Magennis said he believes that the border can act as a bridge for opportunities and that the North West region is unique because of its travel to work areas that are not replicated in other parts of the island.
He urged both Councils to continue with their collaborative approach and referred to tomorrow’s inaugural meeting of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, which will see senior government officials from north and south, meeting with both Councils to agree strategic growth priorities for the region.
The conference concluded with a panel discussion that engaged audience members along with contributions from chambers of commerce together with business representatives from both sides of the border and representation from organisations against Brexit.
In his closing address Seamus Neely, Donegal County Council Chief Executive thanked those who attended and said that this is only the beginning of the conversation.
Mr Neely said: “Today’s speakers have provided us with food for thought that will help us continue to develop our views and thoughts that will allow us to develop a collective response to the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit for this region.”