Dundalk and Newry Chamber held their 5th Annual Conference on Brexit virtually. The conference was jointly opened by the Chairs of the two local Authorities Cathaoirleach Delores Minogue and Councilor Laura Devlin. It concluded with the two Chief Executives, Joan Martin and Marie Ward outing what has and will be done. It is interesting to note that all four are women.
The Taoiseach set out a comprehensive review of the wider economy and the Government’s response to the threats of Covid and Brexit. He anticipated an acceleration of change in the areas of climate, digitisation and e commerce. Our long-term path must be to fully embrace the opportunities of the All-Island Economy, the full working of the Northern Ireland protocol to ensure no hard border and the continued use of the EU Single Market.
He then addressed the local region giving a strong commitment to the Narrow WATER Ferry and the Newry Southern Relief Road. He pointed to the Shared Island Fund of €500 million, the replacement of Interreg and Peace 4 with an enhanced funding Peace Plus. He confirmed that the Government would do all it could through LEO/ Enterprise Ireland to support the businesses in Louth and along the Border in dealing with Brexit. He commended the work done over may years by the two Chambers and the Local Authorities, who had all signed the MOU back in 2011.
Minister Conor Murphy also congratulated the Chambers and Local Authorities. He urged businesses to use the NI Protocol and the supports of his Department to overcome the difficulties of Brexit. He cautioned that our region of Newry Dundalk must fight for its share of investment and infrastructure in order to compete with the twin threats of Belfast and Dublin. Initiatives in tourism, the proposed Geo Park and other areas need to be implemented.
He also stated that the supports he had put in place he would continue for as long as he could, even after vaccination until not required.
Kerry Curran and Deirdre Maguire of InterTrade, one of the sponsors, set out the grants and supports it offers to all businesses on the island of Ireland by looking at future opportunities. Thomas McEvoy from the LEO office outlined the supports available from itself and EI.
Oliver Mangan of AIB gave their assessment of the economy over the next 12-24 months, anticipating a rapid recovery once vaccination has been rolled out.
Emma Kierns of Chamber Ireland outlined the role that organization plays locally nationally and internationally. Within the EU Brexit is over and Climate change is the focus. We need to ensure that we get our share of the “Brexit Fund” which has been set aside to help economies affected. She advised us to recognize the unique position on Northern Ireland and the advantages of the M1 corridor.
Robert McConnell of Pinnacle gave a presentation of the practicalities of how to deal with the NI Protocol and how to overcome the obstacles that have been erected.
The last session saw a joint presentation by Joan Martin and Marie Ward the respective CE of the two Councils. They outlined the collaborative work done on tourism including the Ferry and the cycle way. In addition, they saw scope for enhanced cooperation through the 2040 National Development Plan and the (Belfast) City Deal. They also addressed the opportunities which the Eastern Corridor of Belfast Dublin offered and the role the two Councils can play.
There was a concluding question and answer session which included Conor Patterson, Newry Enterprise and Paddy Malone PRO Dundalk Chamber on a variety of topics including future initiatives in the areas of education, health tourism.