Bishop slams lack of regional development

The lack of economic development in the north-west and the need for the region to have a Minister at the cabinet table was highlighted this week by Bishop Christopher Jones as he addressed guests at the Roscommon Association in Birmingham annual dinner dance. Speaking at a function on April 19th, the Bishop of Elphin acknowledged the huge increase in economic activity in recent years, but noted that the infrastructure which should go hand in hand with housing is not being provided.    ‘One hopes that County Councils and developers will ensure that with every housing estate there must be a Community Centre. People have more than accommodation needs. They need to meet each other, identify their needs as a community and plan their future together. Their children need recreational facilities for night and day. It is tragic to see so many families live in big housing estates with no community centre or community facilities.’ The lack of industrial development in the west of Ireland was also pointed to.  ‘Despite rapid economic development in other parts of the country there has been no development of industry in the north west outside of Galway. Galway as we know is overdeveloped. The IDA tell us industrialists will not come to the North West until Knock Airport, together with road and rail infrastructure, is developed all around it. The only dual carriageway from Dublin to the West is from Dublin to Galway – from one over developed area to another. Yet there is not a dual carriageway north west of a line drawn from Dublin to Galway. Knock Airport ‘Knock Airport is one of the most important resources in Ireland awaiting development. In fact, with little Government support by comparison with what other regional airports receive, it has grown rapidly as it responds daily to the needs of the West. Every time you go there, a new car park is being constructed to meet rapidly increasing demands. Surely it is obvious to everyone that towns like Castlebar, Ballina, Swinford, Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon, Castlerea and Ballyhaunis are all waiting to take off as soon as Knock Airport is developed. ‘As you probably know there is a slow down in the Irish economy and once again we are witnessing the closure of factories in rural towns like Ballaghaderreen. These closures would be the equivalent of the closure of factories employing two thousand people in the city of Dublin – that is in terms of their impact on the community.’ Concluding, he praised the work done by the Council for the West and the Western Development Commission, and stressed the need for balanced regional development. ‘It is hard to believe that in the life of the last National Development Plan the Government failed to invest over €3 billion euro that was planned for the BMW region. Again it seems that we are suffering in Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim because we have no Minister at the Cabinet table when the important decisions are being made each week. We will continue appealing to the Government to give the West and North West a chance and the development of Knock Airport would be the catalyst to generate revolutionary development in the West and North West.’