Leadership in Advocacy
There is sometimes a certain resistance in central government departments to policy proposals from regions because they can challenge current thinking. For the West of Ireland a further difficulty is that there has been a Government policy of prioritising investment in the largest urban areas, where it believes it will command the single greatest economic impact.
One of my ways to counter these challenges was to mount strong, intellectually robust arguments based on high level research and at the same time win public opinion through open sharing of information and debate.
AS CEO of the of the Western Development Commission (1997 -2001) I prepared and advocated a broad range of strategic policies supporting western development, EU Objective 1 status, policy proposals across infrastructure, IT, agriculture, tourism, employment, manufacturing, rural development and fisheries. The work involved not just expert technical reports, but the animation of groups at regional level and negotiations at the level of Taoiseach, Senior Ministers and Secretary General with the aim of converting recommendations into actual policy. We succeeded on many of these issues and achieved €3.7bn committed to different western projects.
Many objectives were not achieved in my time at the Commission but were implemented later. Back in 2000 we advocated to have a pan-west of Ireland coastal approach to tourism promotion in our “Blueprint for Tourism” document. This led immediately to the first ever single budget split across western regions to promote tourism and to-day the government promotes all regions under the brand of the Wild Atlantic Way.