Northern Ireland Must ‘Focus On Infrastructure to Realise Potential’, ICE Report

Northern Ireland can only realise its full potential as a devolved region if it focuses on making infrastructure improvements “the driver of the economy”.

That is according to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) which has described infrastructure as “key to unlocking economic, environmental and social benefits”.

In the body’s State of The Nation report on devolutions it calls for the Stormont executive to put improving infrastructure at the heart of the programme for government.

Among recommendations in the document is for a pipeline of identified upcoming projects to be established.

Regional director for ICE Northern Ireland Richard Kirk said greater forward planning was required.

“For Northern Ireland, realising our full potential as a devolved nation means that we must identify our ongoing infrastructure needs and create a cohesive plan for delivery,” he said.

“The establishment of the new Department for Infrastructure has provided us with that opportunity to develop a strategy and delivery plan for key projects, but we also need a central delivery service and pipeline of upcoming projects to better plan for future needs.”

Earlier this year, ICE and Pinsent Masons held a joint ‘national needs assessment’, which brought together government officials, industry experts and business leaders to discuss the north’s infrastructure needs up to the year 2050.

The impeding skills shortage in civil engineering is one of the most challenging obstacles facing infrastructure delivery.

However, Northern Ireland’s devolved status has enabled ICE to work with government to help address the demand for civil engineers. It has developed Work+, a civil engineering apprenticeship in conjunction with the Department for the Economy, employers and colleges.

“Devolution enables us to implement the forward-thinking infrastructure policies and programmes like Work+ that will build our quality of life,” added Mr Kirk.

“However, if we do not commit to actually funding and investing in infrastructure, we will pay the price of poorer health and damage to our economy and environment.”