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Tullamore Chamber Calls for Polycentric Approach to Midlands

18th January 2017



Commenting on recent articles in “The Irish Times” regarding the potential conferring of city status on a Midland town, namely Athlone, Niall Mulligan, President of Tullamore & District Chamber of Commerce said “It would be a mistake to treat any Midland town in isolation, because none has the capability to achieve the population growth required to be a standalone city within the lifetime of the Framework. Efforts and investment to achieve said growth would undoubtedly be at the expense of the other principal towns and the Region as a whole. To treat any town in isolation ignores the interdependencies of the Midland towns and the viable lifestyle alternative each one offers to city life.

Taking Tullamore as an example, we have a local area population of around 17,000 but a population of 305,000 living within 45-minute commute. Tullamore has the underlying infrastructure to support a population of 35,000 right now. Growth of the municipal area population beyond 35,000 would be inappropriate relative to the infrastructure we have in place, and would not be seen by many in Tullamore as a desirable outcome.

However, the implementation of planned upgrades to key roads in the Midland region such as the N80, N52, N55 and N4 could have balanced and far reaching benefits for Tullamore, Portlaoise, Mullingar and Athlone. In Tullamore’s case, it could increase the 45-minute commute radius as far as Carlow and Longford. That would be a huge benefit to Tullamore’s employers in accessing skills and talent in the region. In this respect, a properly funded Iarnród Eireann Intercity service running on dual track would be a game-changer.

Tullamore has no Institute of Technology. Athlone has no Regional Hospital. The two towns’ fortunes are intertwined and one cannot succeed at the expense of the other. This interdependent relationship is true for all neighbouring Midland towns, and I include Carlow and Kilkenny in that statement. Imagine the strategic benefit to Carlow’s exporters if they had a high-quality N80 route to Rosslare Harbour, Ireland’s only direct route to the EU, post Brexit!”

Commenting on IDA’s recently published jobs summary for 2016, Mr. Mulligan continued, “it seems the Midlands region has been singularly ignored by the IDA. The Region is the only one not to have benefitted from 2016’s record levels of Foreign Direct Investment. It is wholly unacceptable that the Midland region should have just a 2% share of Ireland’s FDI jobs. There is no good reason why the Region should have enjoyed just one tenth of the FDI net employment increase of the next-worst performing region. The targets set out in the Action Plan for Jobs (Midlands Region) are not being met. Radical resourcing increases need to be brought on stream to correct this. We need upgrades to transport infrastructure and services. We need major investment to improve access to technical manufacturing skills training. We need to drastically increase the availability of international-quality commercial property. We need a serious push on promotion of the Region as a viable destination for investment. Minister Coveney can mess about with town boundaries and designations all he wants, but if balanced investment is not forthcoming, the downgrading of the Midland Region’s viability will continue and any notional Midlands city will flounder”.


For further information, contact Niall Mulligan on 086 8362440 or info@tullamorechamber.com

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