High-Speed Rail & Restoration of Internal Flights would Transform All-Island Connectivity

-An All-Island Collaboration  Promises Economic Growth-
[Belfast, May 24th] In a landmark mission, a delegation of business leaders and politicians from across the island came together to discuss key areas for an all-island approach to economic development. Led by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Cork Chamber, and Dublin Chamber, this series of events marks the first collaborative initiative of its kind, focusing on enhancing connectivity and fostering economic growth.

Connecting People and Places

Addressing the group, Economy Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “My department is already driving all-island collaboration in key economic areas, such as tourism and sector clusters, and I’m keen that this all-island approach continues and grows.
“We have much to gain in sharing our skills and learning across the island, to ensure we have a buoyant workforce - both north and south - ready to support local businesses to grow, or indeed, foreign direct investment firms, who are always impressed by our home grown talent.

“By supporting innovation in local companies, creating clusters of excellence, and driving initiatives such as the Fintech Corridor, we will not only be improving the productivity of the North, but further enhancing an island-wide reputation which is already attracting international acclaim, and leading globally.”

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd accompanied the delegation to the new Grand Central Station site, which will open later in the year.
He said: “Connecting our island North to South and East to West is the key to the economic prosperity and the social well-being of our people.  Infrastructure development on the roads, through rail connections and our ports, will support the ongoing efforts to develop trade and tourism. Grand Central Station, which is a fantastic new transformative transport asset, will be a game-changer and will play its part in enhancing connections. I look forward to this important collaboration continuing for the benefit of everyone on the island of Ireland.” 

Minister Dara Calleary, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation emphasised the significance of this mission:
“We have seen phenomenal growth in North South trade in recent years, which is one of the key achievements of the peace process. Combined cross-border goods and services trade has seen a threefold increase since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The Government is committed to protecting and bolstering these trade links and to building on the economic dividends of the peace process to the benefit of all parts of our shared island.”

Speaking about the collaboration, Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, NI Chamber said:
Across so many sectors, the business community is leading out with great ambition to strengthen all-island trade. In multiple cases, our member companies are already ahead of the game, so this is about how we, as three Chambers of Commerce can elevate it further by finding the synergies which currently exist and making the strongest business case possible for future investment in economic game changes which will deliver mutual and shared benefit.

“Over the course of these two days, we will be profiling the role that ports play in driving regional economies, discussing how we can incentivise more innovative business clusters and create a shared ecosystem. Our guests have seen for themselves the development of the largest integrated bus and train station on this island and together, we have conferred around our mutual aspirations for faster trains and more connected air routes. We are also focused on how to realise the potential for much greater impact from tourism development.

“It is an exciting initiative and has been a real privilege for NI Chamber to host the first delegation along with our members including Translink, Belfast Harbour and B-Secur, showcasing this region’s unique strengths and capabilities, as well as its vast growth potential. Our intention is that this will grow into a solid partnership, driving forward the fundamental tenets of prosperity and competitiveness.”

Key Initiatives
Together, the NI, Cork, and Dublin Chambers are focused on progressing five key aspirations:
Higher-Speed Rail Cork-Dublin-Belfast: Aiming to create a seamless higher-speed rail link that will significantly reduce travel times and enhance regional connectivity.
Restoration of Cork-Belfast Flights: Restoring domestic flights between Belfast and Cork will enhance business and tourism links, making the island of Ireland a more attractive destination for visitors and investors.
Funding Allocation for Ports: Securing investments to future-proof the three major ports, ensuring they can support economic growth and industrial advancements.
All-Island Innovation Clusters: Promoting collaboration between industry and education to foster innovation and create competitive clusters across the island.
Enhancing Tourism Links: Developing strong tourism links by harnessing regional strengths, place branding, and evolving the story of Ireland to represent a modern island.

Conor Healy, Cork Chamber CEO said, “Northern Ireland’s unique position as part of the UK internal market while, at the same time, having unique access to the EU’s single market of nearly 450 million people provides a solid opportunity for growth. Enhanced rail services, improved port connectivity and the re-establishment of the Belfast-Cork flight are essential to harnessing opportunities in trade, tourism, education and innovation. By building relationships and connectivity, it will ensure that Belfast and the surrounding areas, Dublin and Cork can prosper and grow together, using these unrivalled opportunities as key economic engines of the island.”

Mary Rose Burke, Dublin Chamber CEO said: “The collaboration between our chambers is a testament to the shared vision we hold for an interconnected and thriving island economy. Dublin, as the economic hub, will benefit immensely from enhanced connectivity with Cork and Belfast, driving not just economic growth but also cultural exchange. We in Dublin Chamber have long advocated for a greater degree of cross border co-operation and this visit is a continuation of that. Our island economy can only continue to grow and this will be aided significantly by further investment in infrastructure such as the Narrow Water Bridge, including €600million towards the proposed upgrade of the A5 road, and key to this will be a high speed rail link from Cork to Dublin and onto Belfast and beyond. This initiative represents a bold step forward in leveraging our geographic and economic strengths to create a cohesive strategy that benefits all our communities.”
Over the course of this two-day visit, the delegation has been hosted at key locations including:
  • Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office: Briefing on port led economic growth with Joe O’Neill, CEO, Belfast Harbour Commissioners
  • B-Secur: Discussion on potential from innovation clusters with contributions from B-Secur, Artemis, Catalyst and Queen’s University
  • Belfast Grand Central Station: Site visit hosted by Translink CEO Chris Conway and Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd
  • Ministerial round-table: With Economy Minister Deirdre Hargey, Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd and Minister Dara Calleary, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation