By Siobhan Cronin
COASTAL areas of West Cork could be in for a financial windfall, if they secure funding from an EU programme to link Irish and Welsh communities.
The EU announced last week that €79m would be made available for ‘co-operation projects’ between the two countries.
National contributions to the fund bring the money available to nearly €100m in total.
A key focus of the programme will be to create jobs by better linking Irish and Welsh research organisations and business.
Coastal communities will also benefit from measures to combat climate change and to bring more visitors to Irish and Welsh regions by enhancing and promoting their shared natural and cultural heritage.
It is envisaged that €31.7m in EU funding will support 1,200 enterprises, leading to the creation of 35 new jobs. A further €27.7m will assist coastal communities on the Irish Sea to adapt to climate change, while 24 private, public and non-profit organisations and 10 research institutions will collaborate and exchange knowledge for better response/adaptation.
The EU also announced that €15m will contribute to promoting cultural and natural resources and heritage. As a result, the number of overseas visitors to these coastal communities should be increased by 2%.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creu, said the programme should have real benefits for Irish and Welsh people, particularly those living in coastal communities. ‘Our cross border, interregional programmes are one of the most tangible ways the EU is working to help people address common challenges and tap into shared potential together,’ she said.
‘In focusing on linking SMEs and research organisations, tackling climate change and helping local tourism, we are addressing both the strengths and the challenges of these regions head-on. We expect nearly four million people in these regions to benefit from the projects springing from this decision.’
Voluntary and community organisations, Colleges of Further Education, and Institutes of Technology, as well as other bodies, are welcome to apply for funding.
Applications must contribute to cross-border sustainable development and equality. Applicants must provide at least 15% of the project budget, either through their own or national resources.
The programme covers the regions of Dublin, Mid-East, Mid-West (North Tipperary only), South East and South West in Ireland, and the Isle of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy & Denbighshire and South West Wales, Swansea and Flintshire & Wrexham in Wales.
The programme is managed by Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).
The fund was welcomed this week by Castletownbere-based Deputy Noel Harrington. ‘I can see mutually beneficial programmes that should consider getting involved,’ he told the Southern Star.
‘Some that come to mind may be shared research in marine-based renewable energy, for example, Ringaskiddy-based IMERC.’
Cultural programmes in West Cork could also benefit from the fund, he said. ‘The 2% projected increase in visitors to coastal communities is welcome. Communities and organisations in West Cork should consider how this investment could be utilised to realise greater activity.’