Fine Gael TD and Government Chief Whip, Joe McHugh, has said the Government’s plans for the future must include measures to minimise the effects of Brexit on communities on both sides of the Border.
The draft National Planning Framework – Ireland 2040 Our Plan – is out to public consultation with submissions accepted until November 3.
Minister McHugh said it is vital that border communities submit their ideas to help Brexit-proof all future developments to help maintain peace and stability on the island.
Speaking at a Fine Gael Finn Valley District meeting last night in Ballybofey, Minister McHugh said: “With the peace process barriers came down and we have all seen in Donegal the huge benefits of that.
“However that peace process has been shaken and is still reeling from the impact of the Brexit vote in Britain.
“After the Good Friday Agreement cross-border contacts which had been lost for generations returned. Freedom of movement of both people and goods has increased massively since the removal of checkpoints and the re-opening of roads.
“In recent years the Irish Government has helped to take this cooperation to a new level across a number of sectors.
“Lives saved from the ending of violence also translated to lives saved by the sharing of healthcare services like the coronary and cancer care units at Altnagelvin.
“Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as Health Minister, was instrumental in the development of that strategy and we see the benefits today of joined-up thinking across the border; creating a city region vision which allows pooled resources to benefit citizens on both sides of the Border.
“Our Government now supports the work of Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council in the creation of jobs on both sides of the Border.
“Council officials on either side know that jobs created in one area now benefit both sides; whether that’s people from here in the Finn Valley who travel to Strabane to work for O’Neills’ Sports Wear or people travelling from Derry to work in places like Pramerica in Letterkenny.
“We are now more connected in our lives than ever before but we need to go much further and the Capital Plan and our vision for Ireland 2040 needs a vision which takes us there.
“Infrastructure is a key next step in the development of our region and I was delighted when An Taoiseach reiterated our Government’s commitment to funding the A5 but also the roads network here in Donegal.
“As he said in Derry last weekend, there’s no point in just doing the A5 if we don’t also include the road connections in Donegal and that includes the connections from Lifford to Letterkenny and Lifford to Sligo, with bypasses of Stranorlar/Ballybofey – creating a circular motorway around Ireland that encompasses the A5 upgrade.
“With such infrastructure will come more investment in our region and more prosperity for all our citizens.
“There are still many unknowns about Brexit. We don’t know at this stage what will come out of the negotiations between the EU and the UK.
“But we cannot allow any border or the return of anything which prevents the free movement of goods and people across the border. The jurisdictional border remains but the physical border must never be allowed to return.
“Our Government is working intensely in Brussels and in European capitals to ensure that Ireland and our peace process are at the heart of discussions.
“In Education too we are building more bridges. It makes sense for our third level institutions to work together with LYIT, Ulster University at Magee and the North West Regional College collaborating across the border. This is something I want to see happening in the future.
“We need to work even harder and go much further. Life in this part of Ireland – here in Donegal – was seriously disrupted for much of the last century.
“We were cut off from our natural Ulster hinterland by the border, and linked to the rest of this State by a 2 mile border with Leitrim.
“The peace process has given us all freedoms that maybe some younger people today take for granted.
“We can never take what we now have for granted. The peace process is not a finished process, far from it. We ignore it at our peril.
“Brexit-proofing our future will involve imaginative processes and some very straight forward ideas, the latter being the building of new roads linking Donegal with Derry and Tyrone and on to our capital in Dublin.
“On Lough Foyle, managed by a cross-border agency, we must continue to invest in both Derry and Greencastle, including an investment in infrastructure at Greencastle to allow it to grow in terms of both goods and cruise tourism.
“In just over 20 years there will be another million people on our island. Here in the North West of the country we are ready to be net beneficiaries to the State but we need help getting there.
“I would urge again all those who share a vision for our future to contribute to the consultation process, demand that this part of the country gets recognised for its ability to finally play its full part in the future of our country.
“Brexit has given citizens on both sides of the border an opportunity to think about future relationships as an Island Community. And while respecting constitutional rules as set out by the Good Friday Agreement, Irish citizens north of the border will still want to enjoy the benefits of the European Union.
“If this is to happen we need to build the cornerstone of a future vision. The National Planning Framework can help us out in this regard. For example, Derry City is a key driver of the Donegal economy. In order for this to continue in the future the Irish Government has a duty to invest in the access road from Dublin to Derry and onwards to Donegal.
“The Capital plan is the blueprint for the preparation of 8 million people living on this Island by 2040. Future connections, both North and South have to be taken into consideration in order to build a sustainable health, education, transport and economic society on this Island. For too long, border communities have had to live through inadequate service provision due to a line on the map and minimal population justification.
“This will not be accepted or justified in the future as future service provision will be measured by critical mass on both sides of the border.”Tags: