Council chief wants Taoiseach talks

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Council chief wants Taoiseach talks thumbnailTaoiseach Leo Varadkar

THE Chief Executive of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDC) Liam Hannaway, is hoping to hold a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to discuss border issues around Brexit.

In a wide ranging interview with The Newry Democrat, Mr Hannaway discussed the difficulties the area will face because of Brexit, a possible 'City Deal', the Newry Southern Relief Road, the Kilkeel Harbour expansion plan and NMDC's Memorandum of Understanding with Louth County Council.

The Newry Democrat exclusively revealed in July that the Southern Relief Road was third in the list of priorities in the 400 million infrastructure funding that was secured by the DUP/Tory deal, while NMDC has been working in conjunction with Belfast City Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in order to set up a City Deal.

This deal, which may also include Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, could see NMDC benefit in terms of infrastructure project funding.

However, Mr Hannaway explained that work on the Southern Relief Road may not begin until 2022 because of the legal processes that must be carried out, including what the environmental impact could be.

Looking at the benefits a City Deal could bring to the area, Mr Hannway said: "We're looking to build strategic alliances with the City Deal and that will increase the level of investment in the area. It will be the Exchequer that will lend us the money.

"It's part of the DUP/Tory deal and it's an opportunity to deliver the Southern Relief Road, a new electricity grid and the Kilkeel Harbour project.

"We're hoping a City Deal can be agreed within the next 12 months."

City Deals have been established in all major city areas in Scotland, England and Wales and have been transformative in terms of achieving key infrastructure, driving economic innovations and accelerating the growth of the local economy.

The Kilkeel Harbour project, which could be fully funded by a City Deal, will cost 36 million and could create up to 1,000 new jobs.

A group of Kilkeel fishermen, engineering firms and fish processors are planning to build a new breakwater, and an onshore development which would allow bigger boats into the harbour.

While fishermen are currently catching prawns, the expansion could see the harbour landing mackerel and herring.

Meanwhile, NMDC and Louth County Council have both signed a Memorandum of Understanding looking at the impact of Brexit and how the two council areas can work together as a "collective voice".

Mr Hannaway is hoping to hold a meeting with Mr Varadkar to discuss border issues, specifically looking at special arrangements for cross border trading, making sure there are no tariffs in place and trading with the rest of Europe.

"We need to have regulations which will protect the southern product and crossing the border," continued Mr Hannaway.

"We need to be in a position that we as a council can speak in a collective voice because the border regions are the weakest economically.

"There are big levels of agriculture in the council area and we need to look at farming on both sides of the border because that's what some farmers currently do.

"The border region could be in total desolation if this isn't sorted because it is the most vulnerable."


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