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Drogheda puts pressure on Varadkar to declare it Ireland's next city

Following a meeting with Drogheda Chamber, Varadkar said he would “take into account ” what was said.

Image: Leo Varadkar/Twitter

DROGHEDA HAS PUT further pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to declare it Ireland’s newest city.

The Drogheda and District Chamber hosted the Taoiseach this afternoon to outline its vision and strategy for the town with the hope it will be delivered in the “near term”.

According to the 2016 Census, Drogheda is the largest town in Ireland with a population of 40,956, up 6.2% since April 2011.

It was also named as one of Europe’s’ emerging micro-cities in a report by the Financial Times.

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, who organised today’s meeting, said he was “delighted” with the outcome, saying there was now a “clear roadmap” for Drogheda’s future.

With Drogheda’s designation in the 2040 Plan we must now put in place the most feasible way to achieve ‘City Status’, and plan for our development as a future city with our very own city manager.

President of Drogheda Chamber, Shona McManus, said during the meeting it raised the report of the Boundary Review Commission given to the Minister of the Environment in February 2017.

The report outlined key actions for both Louth and Meath County Councils to have implemented since that time, to encourage and sustain future development in Drogheda, “which quite simply have not happened”.

Emerging city 

Speaking to reporters in Drogheda today, Varadkar said:

“The fact that part of Drogheda is in Meath and part of Drogheda is in Louth causes real practical difficulties with the orderly development of what is an emerging city”. 

There were some good suggestions about how Meath County Council and Louth County Council could work together a bit better.  There’s been a suggestion that perhaps an assistant city manager could be appointed with a team to actually make decisions and I think it’s going to be as much about people working together in a common-sense way, the solution I think probably lies there rather than moving boundaries because that can be controversial, particularly where there are very strong county loyalties and county identities.

The Drogheda City Status Group (DCSG) who have been campaigning for Drogheda’s city status for over ten years called on the Taoiseach directly to “end to the social and economic fragmentation of Drogheda and Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie Anna McKenna, the DCSG secretary, said that the Drogheda City Status group were “very disappointed” that they were not invited to the Taoiseach’s meeting with Drogheda Chamber. 

In a statement earlier today, the DCSG said the way in which Drogheda and its natural catchment is traditionally divided by the Louth-Meath boundary is “21st-century gerrymandering” as it hinders on the town’s economic development. 

“The 2016 Census recognised Drogheda as Ireland’s largest town, even without including the population of Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington,” McKenna said.

The results of that Census are already obsolete, as our growth has been relentless and since then, housing completions in the Greater Drogheda Area are almost on par with the combined figures for Dundalk and Waterford, adding several thousand people to our local population.

The group also want Vardkar to create a suitable Local Government structure to assist in expediting the “much-needed” Northern Environs Housing Plan. 

“We also need investment in local jobs, with 88% of those in employment from LBM forced to work outside their area, and 52% of those in Drogheda – compared to just 30% in Dundalk, which as a smaller town, is the one designated by the IDA as the North East’s Strategic Employment Centre.

“Furthermore, Drogheda and East Meath are served by two different IDA Regions and don’t seem to be a priority for either,” McKenna said. 

‘Bitterly disappointed’ 

In 2017, a planning report strongly advised that Drogheda be granted city status to help with its economic growth and development..

The report also highlighted how the former borough of Drogheda, together with the adjoining Louth and Meath rural areas, have increased in population by almost 80% between 1996-2016.

So when it came to the launch of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan last year, Drogheda locals were “bitterly disappointed” when the town wasn’t granted city status. 

Project Ireland 2040 does, however, recognise Drogheda and Dundalk in the context of the Dublin to Belfast economic corridor “as important cross-border networks for regional development”.

The plan says:

It will be necessary to prepare coordinated strategies for Dundalk and Drogheda at both regional and town level to ensure that they have the capacity to grow sustainably and secure investment as key centres on the Drogheda-Dundalk-Newry cross border network.

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Adam Daly

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