Over 60 towns were represented in Tuam on Saturday at a regional development conference organised by West on Track and hosted by Action Tuam.
Action Tuam Chairperson Ronán Long welcomed an audience of over 250 people from Derry to Kerry and overseas. Public representatives attended in large numbers and there was strong representation from multi-national and indigenous business, and freight interests.
The opening address by Minister Dara Calleary TD sent a powerful message about the importance of balanced regional development and the commitment to address the west’s infrastructure deficits which make it a “lagging” region in Europe.
The conference heard presentations from economist Dr John Bradley, Mike Devane (AEC), David Minton (Northern & Western Regional Assembly, Conor Feighan (European Rail Freight Association) and Donal Healy Ireland West Airport Knock. The event was chaired by Maria Heneghan of West on Track.
Public representatives in attendance included Minister Dara Calleary TD, Deputies Alan Dillon, Rose Conway Walsh, Brian Leddin, Michael Fitzmaurice, Denis Naughten and local TD Seán Canney. Senators Lisa Chambers, Pauline O’Reilly, Seán Kyne, Ollie Crowe and Victor Boyhan were also present along with Chris MacManus MEP, Marc MacSharry TD and Senator Aisling Dolan, and more than twenty County Councillors from across the region.
Also in attendance were Gerry Finn, Chair of the Western Development Commission, Cllr. Michael Connolly, Chair of the Western Inter County Railway Committee, Steve Bradley, Into the West Rail Group, David Crooks, West Ulster Rail Initiative and Frank Dawson, Chair of the Railway Safety Advisory Council.
The conference expressed strong support for the development of the Atlantic Economic Corridor and heard calls for an urgent proactive policy for regional development and an end to centralized planning which ignores the needs of the regions.
The immediate reopening of the Western Rail Corridor was highlighted by all speakers as the first obvious step in redressing the infrastructural inequalities currently facing the western region. This should happen not just to Claremorris but subsequently to Sligo the conference was told. The need for development of rail in the north and northwest was also mentioned by contributors from the floor, including Steve Bradley of the Into the West Group.