President’s Blog – A Whirlwind Start

Before describing this week’s activities, who is Conor McCarthy? From Lifford in County Donegal, I was a boarder in Summerhill College prior to studying Civil Engineering in what was then University College Galway, now NUIG. All my working life has been in the private sector, in consulting engineering in Ireland and the U.S. Together with David Kiely, I am the co-owner of Jennings O’Donovan, based in Finisklin, working in the water services, renewable energy, planning, environmental, commercial and housing sectors. I am married to Cathy and, together; we have four children, Ross, C.J., Alannah and Billy. A committed believer that a healthy body breeds a healthy mind, I train every day, be it either running, spinning, swimming or yoga.

The Presidential Handover took place in Lyons’ Café on Monday evening, February 11th, attended by sixty people from business and the public sector. The two weeks since the handover have been eventful and busy. On Friday, February 15th, myself and CEO Aidan hosted a meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Sandeep Kumar. Mr. Kumar was particularly interested in engaging in discussion to get an improved understanding of potential business opportunities and work life balance for Indian companies in the regions outside the more traditional focus, Dublin.

Our Industrial Group led by David Kiely held their monthly meeting on Monday morning, February 18th, at which David Minton, Director for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly made a presentation on the role of the Assembly. The Assembly is currently finalizing its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. An important component of that strategy is the Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan (MASP) Boundary for Sligo, which currently does not include Collooney. Sligo Chamber emphasized the importance of the MASP boundary being revised to include Collooney as population scale is key to Sligo realizing its potential as a Growth Centre under the National Development Plan.

Later that day, myself and CEO Aidan Doyle travelled to Brussels as part of a Chambers Ireland Delegation for two days’ meetings and engagements at the European Commission and in the European Parliament. Over the course of the two days, we met with Irish MEPs, Sean Kelly, Brian Hayes, Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carty and Sligo’s own Marion Harkin as well as Agricultural Commissioner, Phil Hogan. Of particular interest in the current political environment was an overview of the state of play of the Brexit negotiations from Nina Obermaier, the Principal Advisor to the Deputy Chief Task Force for the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile back at home; the contract for the long awaited refurbishment of O’Connell Street was signed on the Tuesday, February 19th.  On Friday, on what was truly a remarkable day for Sligo, we saw the years of hard work and commitment delivered on the infrastructure front with the turning of sod by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on both the €120 million N4 Castlebaldwin to Collooney Road and the Western Distributor Road which will open up lands at Oakfield for development. I was proud as President of Sligo Chamber to be present as the Taoiseach announced the creation of over 200 jobs by GW Plastics at a new facility in the IDA Business Park, Finisklin. Since the launch of the National Development Plan in Sligo in February last year and the designation of Sligo as a Growth Centre, there have now been 1,700 jobs announced for the region, 1,400 of which are in Sligo. We are really on the map in terms of attracting business interest. This is a vote of confidence in the region and a testimony to the hard work of all in promoting Sligo, including the Team at Sligo Chamber.

So yes indeed, a whirlwind start to the 2019 Presidential Year. Roll on 2019. That’s all for now.

Life is for living – Life is Sligo.

Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber