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Speech at the Launch of the National Spatial Strategy in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham


I want to welcome everyone here this morning for what is an important day for this country and our future.

The National Spatial Strategy for Ireland has been completed.  As a result, we now have a 20-year framework for planning that will match people, places and potential across the whole country.   Today, in announcing its publication, I look forward to its full implementation for the benefit of people and communities all over this country.

I believe that the Strategy marks a new stage in our maturity and development as a nation, as we plan for the future development of our country. 

It is a big document, a comprehensive document.  But for me and for the Government, it is a living document - one that will shape public policies so as to improve quality of life for our people over the next two decades.

Ireland has experienced enormous changes in its recent history.  We have developed into a vibrant modern economy, with a growing, well-educated population.

The commitment of our people to work hard, the foresight of our people to follow new thinking and the willingness of our people to work together in social partnership for the common good have put the country in the strong position that it is in today.  Europe has brought us great benefits by opening up to us the potential of a wider international stage on which to operate. 

The Strategy being published today is about building on those achievements and about using them as a foundation to build a better future, planned with courage and confidence.

The National Spatial Strategy is about people, about places and about potential.

While we have made great progress over the last 20 years, that development has been marked by spatial imbalances which are presenting us with major problems on a daily basis.  The Greater Dublin Area is facing problems of congestion, while a number of regions suffer from under-utilisation of their potential and resources.   We have a vibrant and thriving international capital city in Dublin, but we need now to counter-balance Dublin for the good of Dublin, Dubliners and the rest of the country. 

Most striking for me is the fact that without a National Spatial Strategy, three quarters of the countrys projected population increase of half a million people over the next twenty years is likely to happen in or near the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).

The new Strategy will enable us to achieve a more balanced regional development.  It is a 20-year strategy designed to enable every place in the country to reach its potential, no matter what its size or what its location.  It recognises that the various regions of the country have different roles to play.  It seeks to organise and co-ordinate these roles in a complementary, win win way that provides an opportunity for all concerned.  It is about making regions competitive according to their strengths.  It is about ensuring a high quality urban environment, as well as vibrant rural areas.

The National Spatial Strategy will bring choice to people about where they want to live and work.  It is not just the multinational that will have the choice about where to set up, but it is the graduate, the school-leaver, the farmer's child, the man or woman who wants to return to work or education who will also have choices.  These choices will become real and meaningful in all regions of the country - not just in the Greater Dublin Area.

The Strategy will act in three ways:

It will bring a better spread of job opportunities, sustaining Dublins role as an engine of the economy while strengthening the drawing power of other areas.  It will bring people, employment and services closer together in a way that sustains strong communities and strong regional economies.

It will bring a better quality of life.  It will deliver less congestion, less long distance commuting, increased access to health, education, leisure and other services.

It will bring better places to live in through ensuring a coherent national planning framework, taking care of our environment and making the most of our cities, towns and rural areas.

This Strategy has been two years in development.  It is a huge body of work, based on research and consultation with groups and individuals all over the country and beyond. 

But no matter how well researched, how timely, how right this Strategy is, it will now need the will, the drive and the desire to implement it.

The Government supports it fully and all public policies must, and will, be consistent with the Strategy, whether it is transport, health, education or housing.  Implementation of the National Spatial Strategy will not be through any single investment programme but through every investment programme. 

And it will be through the National Development Plan, its successors and other programmes that you will see the vision and goals being delivered.

This Strategy is a pioneering programme for the next phase of our national development.  It demands an ability to take the broader and longer term view, something that we have not always been as good at as we should have been.  We have proven, however, through Social Partnership and through the Peace Process that we have grown to appreciate the value of working together in long-range partnership. 

Successful models of regional development in Europe would indicate that achieving the economic potential of regions can only happen if various strategic components within such areas, like cities, large towns and associated rural areas, collaborate more closely on jointly promoted and mutually beneficial strategies for development.

The National Spatial Strategy is a national planning framework that will guide us in delivering a better spread of jobs, better quality of life and better places in which to live.

It is a Strategy that I believe in;

it is a Strategy that I am committed to;  and

it is a Strategy that this Government will work towards full implementation.