Meath County Council is one of eight local authorities from either side of the border which came together today to launch the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor in response to challenges facing the region, which have been identified by a joint report from Dublin City University and Ulster University.

The eight local authorities are:

· Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

· Belfast City Council

· Dublin City Council

· Fingal County Council

· Lisburn Castlereagh City Council

· Louth County Council

· Meath County Council

· Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

The report, The Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor: Current Profile, Potential for Recovery & Opportunities for Cooperation, states that this is an opportune time to create a north-south Economic Corridor given the challenges the region faces as it comes to terms with the impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meath County Council Chief Executive Jackie Maguire said: “Opportunities exist to grow indigenous business, establish clusters of key sectors, foster collaboration and innovation and use the Corridor as the driving force for future sustainable economic development in the wider region.”

In 2018, the eight Councils located along the Corridor and the two Universities came together to work collectively to find ways of realising the potential benefits of further development of the Corridor. This led to the establishment of a Partnership Steering Group made up of the eight Council Chief Executives and the Presidents of the two universities who committed to meeting quarterly.

The Steering Group’s immediate objective is to leverage the network’s resources in areas which can have a positive impact and add significant value to the economic development of the region at a time of great economic and social uncertainty.

A working group of local government and university staff was subsequently formed and tasked with developing a series of cooperative initiatives and projects to begin to realise this objective. The report published today is the first output of their collective work over the past three years.

Following today’s launch and the publication of the Report, the next step will be to establishing working governance structures which will balance oversight and day to day activity. Oversight will be provided by an Oversight and Governance Board. This will comprise of 24 councillors, three from each Council, and they will shortly hold their first meeting to elect a Chair and develop a programme of works. Cathaoirleach Cllr. David Gilroy, Cllr. Conor Tormey and Cllr. Tom Behan will represent Meath County Council on the Oversight and Governance Board.

Cathaoirleach Cllr. David Gilroy said: “There is awareness among all those involved in the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Project that developing a strong ethos of co-operation will require time, energy and support, but that this co-operation will in time deliver tangible economic, social and environmental benefits for our communities, our counties and the region as a whole..”

The region has a population in excess of 2million people and is younger and more diverse than any other part of Ireland with 15% born off the island. It also has the best educated workforce with 34% of the population holding Third Level qualifications thereby creating an excellent pipeline for concentrations of jobs requiring graduates.

In 2019, there were 125,000 firms located along the Corridor with entrepreneurship and survival rates higher than elsewhere in Ireland and more people employed in mid-sized and large businesses than anywhere else.

Key sectors along the Corridor include Advanced Manufacturing, ICT, Agri-Food, Professional Services, Financial Services, Constructions and Tourism while among the challenges facing the region in the coming years are adapting to Brexit, Climate Change and transformation to a low carbon economy, low population density and an ageing population.

Three Government ministers, from either side of the border, attended today’s launch, which was held online and featured an audience drawn from the political, business and education spheres in both jurisdictions.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Conor Murphy MLA, was joined by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD; and Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD. Also, in attendance were the eight leaders of each Council, councillors from across the region and the eight Council Chief Executives as well as members of their senior management teams.