The Assembly is rooted in Waterford City
John Paul Phelan T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government with special responsibility for Local Government and Electoral Reform formally opened the new Assembly House in Waterford today, Friday 8th September. The Assembly relocated to 30 O’Connell Street, demonstrating our firm commitment to the city of Waterford. The Assembly located in Waterford in 1999 and when the decision was made to find a permanent home, a city centre presence was deemed critical. City centres thrive and maintain a vibrancy when active business and social communities abound.
Our new headquarters on O’Connell Street, is housed in a building constructed between 1919 and 1922. It was one of the first concrete framed buildings in Waterford city, although dressed with a classical cut limestone façade. Purpose-built for the Provincial bank, it later became the AIB bank, continuing to house a bank until the early 1990’s. It was subsequently converted into the Bank Bar and Restaurant in the mid 2000’s, and traded as such for a couple of years.
Minister Phelan complemented the Cathaoirleach Cllr. John Brennan, the Director, Mr. Stephen Blair and the members of the Southern Regional Assembly on choosing to locate in the centre of Waterford. It is “testament to your commitment to regional development and a symbol of the rise of the provincial Ireland to see a building of this standing in use in the heart of the city” he said. The Minister told assembled guests of the important role the Assemblies have assumed in regional spatial and economic development. He urged the forging of a common purpose that speaks of regional, that in turn benefits the local. Emphasising the role of region in planning for the future, Minister Phelan spoke of his and the Government’s support for strengthening of the regions, which he envisages as a natural outcome of the new National Planning Framework. “As representatives of the Southern region, I urge you to unify in your focus to build and consolidate the strengths of your region and also to lift those parts of the region that lag behind”.
Mr. Stephen Blair addressing the invited guests said “As a regional development and planning agency, we are keenly aware of the trend that occurred over recent decades, the hollowing out of the core of many of our urban centres. Our decision to maintain a city centre presence, is our effort to stem that tide and contribute in some modest way to the vibrancy of this proud and ancient city”.
Regional structures are in place for over two decades in Ireland with the former Regional Authorities established in 1994. Regional structures are still arguably a relatively new phenomenon in the Irish administrative and political landscape. The Assemblies themselves were established in 1999 with recent reform altering the geography and increasing the scope of their responsibilities. With 34 members and a staff complement of 25, the Assembly strives to drive the social, economic and sustainable development of the Southern region. We envision a prosperous region for all citizens. Cllr. John Brennan, Cathaoirleach, noted “the success we have enjoyed in the management of European programmes and more latterly in laying the bedrock for regional economic and spatial strategies, strengthens the argument for regional structures in Ireland”.
The new premises allow all staff to be housed together under the one roof and our commitment to effective regional development and sustainability is consolidated by this move.