Commenting on the launch of “Project Ireland 2040,” Paddy Callaghan, President of Drogheda Chamber said the Plan “missed opportunities for Drogheda and the North East.” With 83,000 people now in the Greater Drogheda area that straddles parts of South Louth and East Meath, it is now the largest town and fifth largest urban centre in Ireland, yet was neither designated as Regional Capital for the North East – or Ireland’s next city – in the Plan.

“Submissions from the Greater Drogheda area were evidence based as Tanaiste Simon Coveney sought,” said Paddy Callaghan, adding “We are on the way to becoming Ireland’s next city, based on the qualifying criteria laid down by the EU. Right now, not only is Drogheda the largest town in Co.Louth and the North East, it is also Ireland’s largest town.”

Drogheda sought to be designated in the Plan as Ireland’s next city and the Regional Capital of the North East. Whilst Sligo and Athlone secured Regional Capital designation for the North West and Midlands respectively, there is anger and disappointment in the Co.Louth town that Drogheda did not secure similar designation, and there is no reference in the Plan to Drogheda being on course to become Ireland’s next city – and the first in the North East.

“Now, when this Plan is implemented, every region will have either a city or Regional Capital – except the North East,” said Paddy Callaghan. “With excellent infrastructure in or adjacent to Drogheda; a strategic location and our large and rapidly growing population, Drogheda is the obvious location for the Regional Capital,” he added.

The Chamber boss also considers Drogheda as the key centre along the Dublin-Belfast axis.  It is the largest urban centre between the southern and northern capitals, linked to them by the M1 motorway and the Enterprise Rail Link, making it the ideal location for business or State agencies involved in cross-border or Brexit activity. Post Brexit, the future Drogheda City will be the nearest one to the EU:UK land border.

“Whilst Drogheda welcomes the fact it has been mentioned in the context of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor, we have a bigger role to play in national economic growth, and at the moment far too many local people are condemned to long commutes to work or study in the Dublin area that represent a heavy financial, social and environmental cost. We can accommodate much more FDI and indigenous business investment,” said the Chamber President, who urged Government to “look again” at connecting the Metro to the adjacent mainline rail service near Swords to provide a seamless service from Dublin city and airport to Belfast and all intermediate stops, including Drogheda, rather than being solely a “Dublin centric” service thus benefitting commuters, business and tourism interests in the North East.

The Chamber is also concerned that the Plan fails to tackle current Local Authority structures which inhibit growth – the Greater Drogheda area is managed from Dundalk and Navan by Louth and Meath Co.Councils, with no Senior Management “in situ” in Ireland’s fifth largest urban centre. “We need a Greater Drogheda Local Authority to address this urgently,” concluded Paddy Callaghan.