Eight local authorities launch Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor


Eight local authorities from either side of the border came together last week 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 include:

  • Armagh City, 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.

Opportunities exist to grow indigenous business, establish clusters of key sectors, leverage the appetite for collaboration and use the Corridor as the driving force for economic development in the region and nationally.

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 last week is the first output of their collective work over the past three years.

A website has been established as has a presence on social media with the creation of a Twitter account, @DBECIreland, and a LinkedIn account.

Following the 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.

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. Objectives will be set for achievement in the medium to long-term and based on a realisation that local actions can deliver strategic objectives in a practical manner.

The region has a population in excess of 2 million 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.

The launch event, which was hosted by economist David McWilliams, featured interviews with Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Conor Murphy MLA; Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD; Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and Robin Walker MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

Dr Eoin Magennis of University of Ulster and Professor Deiric Ó Broin of Dublin City University who, along with Neale Blair and Jordana Corrigan, researched the subject and developed the report, outlined the strategic vision for what is possible along the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor, while Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, and Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council addressed the online audience which was drawn from the political, business and education spheres in both jurisdictions.

A video about the long-standing co-operation between Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council was also shown and featured interviews with Joan Martin, Chief Executive, Louth County Council; Marie Ward, Chief Executive Officer, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council; Sean O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, STATSports and Eamon McKey, Chief Operations Officer, Deli Lites.

A moderated panel discussion, featuring themes of business, agencies and politics, set out the vision for what’s happening and what’s possible and featured AnnMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive, Fingal County Council; Niall McEntegart, Director, Data Center Site Operation (EMEA & APAC), Facebook; Margaret Hearty, Designated Accounting Officer & Director of Business Services, InterTradeIreland; Trevor Lockhart, Chief Executive, Fane Valley Group and Professor Daire Keogh, President, Dublin City University;

Among the online 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.

A summary of the report - The Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor: Current Profile, Potential for Recovery & Opportunities for Cooperation - is available for information.