Video: Dublin prepared to back Derry/Letterkenny city zone as part of Project Ireland 2040

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said more funding will be made available to support the development of Derry and Letterkenny as a city region.

He said money had already been channelled to the North West Strategic Growth Partnership (NWSGP) to support economic and social growth in the area.

Leo Varadkar.

Leo Varadkar.

Declaring significant progress was being made on the implementation and delivery of Project Ireland 2040, Dublin’s long-term national development plan, Mr. Varadkar said the North West would continue to be supported over the next twenty years.

“Derry and Letterkenny developing together as a city region is very much a feature of Project Ireland 2040,” said the Taoiseach. The Government has provided funding already to the NWSGP, which involves Donegal County Council and Derry City & Strabane District Council.

“I have had an opportunity to engage with them and I imagine we will be able to provide additional funding in the future too. We would be very keen to continue to support the development of Derry working with Letterkenny as the region for the north west,” he stated.

Project Ireland 2040 sparked controversy prior to its publication a year ago due to the lack of prominence given to Derry in draft consultation documents.

Indeed, DC&SDC and DCC initially responded to the consultation by stating: “Derry is the third largest city with a functional territory which lies within the National Planning Framework jurisdictional area; it has a population in excess of 100,000 people and as such is a Tier 3 City.

"Derry City is not named in the maps within the Issues Paper. Council would hope that this will be rectified in any future drafts.”

Derry subsequently did feature in the final plan, although not nearly enough to stop Sinn Féin T.D. Pearse Dohetry, from complaining upon its publication: “This plan is a lie in its very name. This is not a national development plan. It is a plan for a partitioned country. It is a partitionist development plan.”

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, however, speaking in the Dáil last week, saw positives.

She said: “D&SDC has in place an ambitious, inclusive strategic growth plan and, as part of the plan, the council is trying to secure a City Deal for the region from the British Government.

Its plan also envisages financial contributions from the Taoiseach’s Government and the EU for a number of key strategic projects that would benefit the entire NW region.

“We are talking about vital projects that will help to unlock the economic potential of Derry and Donegal, such as the expansion of Magee university and the development of the Greencastle cruise berth. This is about putting meat on the bones of the very welcome inclusion of the NW in Project Ireland 2040.”

Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion commented: “It was encouraging that he said he imagined he would be able to provide additional funding to the project and that he is keen to continue to support the development of Derry working with Letterkenny as part of the wider north west city region.”