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Address at the launch of the Clones Regeneration Partnership Report


I am delighted to be here in Clones for the launch of the towns Regeneration Partnership Report. It is an important occasion . On the one hand, it marks the end of the process which brought together the people of Clones and the surrounding area to prepare this important plan. And on the other hand, this event I hope also marks a new beginning for regeneration in this area. For the many people who have worked hard to produce this report and all those who care passionately about this community, I am sure this report has not come one day too soon.As we look forward this afternoon, I feel honoured to have this chance to acknowledge publicly all the local people who have worked hard to prepare this great report. I know it is the work of many hands and Brian Morgan, the Chairman of the Partnership asked me especially to pay tribute to the people of this town who have worked together to prepare this important blueprint for the future. Brian tells me that assistance and advice was received from Monaghan County Council, Clones Urban District Council, the International Fund for Ireland and INTERREG.

The role of the County Enterprise Board and the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation has been vital also.I would like to pay a special tribute to the goals and the work of the Peace and Reconciliation Programme. At a time when we are engaged in a major national debate about our relationship with Europe, I think it vital that we recognise and acknowledge the considerable and decisive support which the EU is giving to the work of local communities in border areas to build a better future. I know that this particular EU Programme is managed by the team at ADM along with the Combat Poverty Agency and they have my full support in their work to develop communities, like Clones, who have suffered most as a direct result of the Northern conflict.Three years ago, a research report by ADM into the services sector stated that "no town suffered more from its proximity to the border and conflict than Clones". One important feature of your work here has been the struggle to overcome the depressing effect which partition and the last 30 years of troubles have had on the local economy and the local community.

We all have lived through the dark days of the blocked roads which effectively sealed Clones off from the benefits of normal economic life. Thankfully and as a direct result of our work to build a lasting peace, we can now look forward to a much better future for the community here in Clones and right throughout the border counties. The additional positive impacts to come from the National Development Plan and from Monaghan's designation as part of the Objective 1 region means that we, at last, have a framework in which strong local communities and strong local economies can grow.Of course, if we are to achieve this, we need to translate our national plans into practical, fair, strategic plans for local communities.

I know that the Clones Community Forum has been to the forefront of local development efforts. It is important that the partnership has this larger framework to assist its work as a sub-committee of the Forum.Clones is a model of an inclusive Partnership working together for a better economic future for this community. Your report is evidence of the hard and detailed work you have put in to identifying what needs to be achieved if Clones is to maximise its potential in the coming years. The detailed and methodical way in which you have approached your task is clear from the report.You have taken up the challenge of partnership. Partnership is hard work and it takes time. It involves finding, agreeing and implementing a shared approach to economic and social development.

Partnership has been the corner stone of our growth and progress of recent years. It is now built into practically all policy developments across all Government Departments.Partnership has become a key feature of Local Development. It has also proved extremely successful. Local people have been given a voice and an opportunity to make things happen in their own areas. The targeted approach is being used to good effect in the RAPID programme, which is ensuring that the most deprived urban areas have been targeted for front-loading of NDP funds. The CLÁR programme is targeting rural areas that are in decline.It is to the credit of the people of Clones and the surrounding areas that regeneration partnership recognised that the starting point should be to secure local input and ownership in developing new ways of working, based on Partnership and trust.

I know that you have put two years of hard work into this project and that you have engaged in ongoing consultation with all of those interested in promoting the well-being of this area. Today is the culmination of a process that has led to the development of a strategic plan for Clones. I congratulate you on the dedication and effort you have put into producing this report and I look forward to continued development and prosperity for this area in the future.Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.