Northern Ireland

Varadkar hopes UU Magee investment will strengthen cross-border links

Minister Simon Harris, vice-chancellor of UU Professor Paul Bartholomew and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the announcement of the Shared Island fund. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Minister Simon Harris, vice-chancellor of UU Professor Paul Bartholomew and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the announcement of the Shared Island fund. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Minister Simon Harris, vice-chancellor of UU Professor Paul Bartholomew and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the announcement of the Shared Island fund. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he hopes investment in an Ulster University campus will strengthen cross-border links.

He insisted that there was "no ulterior motive" to €44.5 million being provided to build a new teaching and student services building at the university's Magee campus in Derry.

As first reported by The Irish News, it is part of the Irish government's €56 million funding from the Shared Island Fund, aimed at cross-border investments.

The new Magee building will include lecture and seminar spaces alongside computer labs and student service spaces amid plans by UU to increase student numbers at its Derry campus to over 6,500.

A new youth forum will also be set up as part of the Shared Island initiative, which will ask 80 young people both north and south of the border to set out their vision for the island from September.

Speaking at government buildings in Dublin on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said: "It is money that we committed in the past as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

"We've made previous commitments as well... which we will honour.

"So, long before there was a Shared Island Unit, we were making a contribution to infrastructure projects that benefit Northern Ireland, but also has a cross-border element as well, and Shared Island really is the development of that.

"And I'm very straightforward, very genuine about this.

"There's no ulterior motive here. We're doing this because we want there to be more north-south cooperation.

"We want more cross-border cooperation.

"We want for example, to have a much bigger university campus in Derry, that students from all over the island, and people from Britain and other parts of the world, come to and I hope that happens.

"We want to improve connectivity, whether it's the Dublin Belfast railway line, whether it's the A5, and these are things that benefit Northern Ireland.

"These are things that benefit people in Ireland as a whole and that's why we're doing them."

Professor Paul Bartholomew, UU vice-chancellor, said: “We are delighted to receive confirmation of this investment by the Irish government.

"The funding announced will make a very significant contribution in preparing the campus for significant growth and is part of a larger investment package that comprises our own investment, City Deal funding, Inclusive Futures funding, and Department for the Economy capital grant monies.

"With our partners, we have an ambitious vision to continue to expand student numbers on our Derry campus and to grow our economic and social impact in the whole of the northwest of the island.”

Funding was also confirmed for the construction of two new all-island bioeconomy demonstrator facilities for the agriculture and marine sectors as well as money for a new respite and therapeutic centre for children diagnosed with cancer and their families from across the island of Ireland.

Around €2 million will also be provided for the tender process for the Narrow Water Bridge project.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin also said: "The investment decisions made today under the Shared Island initiative will further deepen the people to people links across this island, including in such important areas as health and education – things which impact so much on the day to day lives of us all.

“The Shared Island initiative is forward looking and optimistic for the future of this island."