The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, believes a strengthening Derry-Letterkenny urban axis will contribute significantly to 75 per cent projected Irish population growth outside Dublin over the next 20 years.
Mr. Varadkar said he believed Derry will develop into a major epicentre for growth over the next few decades and that this will hopefully result in more investment and more jobs for the city and region.
Speaking in the Dáil the Taoiseach said he felt Dublin’s new Project Ireland 2040 national development plan, which was published in February, will transform the prospects of the Derry-Letterkenny city area.
“Project Ireland 2040 and the national planning framework, which is associated with it provide for population growth of 75 per cent outside the greater Dublin region,” he said.
“In particular, they identify major growth centres, one of which is Letterkenny working with Derry,” he added.
The Taoiseach said the commitments to improve the roads infrastructure in the Derry-Donegal area outlined in the Project Ireland document will help further plug the region into the national economy.
“The A5-N2 project will soon start to connect the northern part of Donegal to Northern Ireland and the Border counties and Dublin and is a vital infrastructure project to which I am very committed,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has also been talking up the national development plan
The Monagahan native said Project Ireland’s proposals for further cross-border should be pursued vigorously.
“Jobs in Derry benefit people in Donegal. We trade across the border every day. I want to see that continue and I want to encourage more of that,” said the Dublin business minister.
“I want to develop regional clusters because in the area from which I come there is a very strong engineering tradition and I want to see how we can work together better. We will achieve far more if we collaborate.
“That is the most important thing,” she stated.
Elsewhere, Mr. Varadkar pointed to the benefits that have already been achieved in the health arena through cross-border working, citing the example of the Altnagelvin cath lab, which takes patients from Donegal on a pro-rata basis.
“We have a contract with Altnagelvin hospital in Derry to provide cath lab services and primary percutaneous coronary intervention, PCI, for people in Donegal,” he pointed out in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Project Ireland 2040, while emphasising the need for greater links between Derry and Letterkenny, faced criticism when it was published earlier this year.
Donegal Sinn Féin T.D., Pearse Doherty, said it was a ‘partitionist lie’.
“It speaks of the development of Ireland’s three regions while ignoring the north of our country. The plan speaks of Ireland’s main cities but does not mention Derry or the industrial city of Belfast,” he remarked.