I am delighted to welcome the opening of the €17m Fáilte Ireland Investment Grant-Aid Scheme for private & community projects in Midland’s counties.
I am grateful to Fáilte Ireland for their work with communities, enterprises and agencies in designing a funding scheme for tourism enterprises of up to €17 million. As part of the EU Just Transition Fund, this scheme prioritises the generation of jobs in areas where the economy traditionally centred on peat extraction and peat powered electricity generation. It is one scheme in the bigger plan to establish the Midlands as a ‘green’ tourism destination. Community and small to medium size enterprises with ideas to attract more visitors, make the tourism offering more inclusive and increase the length of time visitors stay can apply now under one of 5 five project categories that will be considered for funding:
Category 1: Development or Enhancement of Sustainable Visitor Experiences
Category 2: Development of Sustainable/Low Carbon Tourist Accommodation
Category 3: Capital Project Planning & Design
Category 4: Digital Transformation
Category 5: Accessibility enhancements to provide a more inclusive visitor experience.
The focus is on employment and benefit to local economies but there is also a strong nod to low carbon project ideas. An appreciation of the need to work with nature and within the limits of our resources will mean that these jobs, these enterprises and this new focus of our economy will be sustainable for generations to come.
Like all EU Just Transition funding schemes, I see real potential here to start the ball rolling in the right direction, and with sufficient impetus, so that it gains momentum and the Midlands soon becomes a world-class visitor destination. It’s an oft misquoted cliché but ‘build it and they will come’ comes to mind. We can be best in class for low carbon eco-tourism. We have unique and remarkable built and living heritage and we have people ready and willing to share their love of it – that’s where the magic lies.
I love our region and am unashamedly biased. I don’t believe anyone who has walked our pilgrim ways, navigated our rivers or stopped to appreciate the wildlife of our peatlands could argue that the potential isn’t there. This scheme offers a step up and ahead for a region and communities who feel time is moving on without them. I have had many interactions with these communities, and especially those in west and north Offaly: There is no shortage of vision nor project ideas and there is a great willingness to work for the betterment of their local communities.
I wish all who intend to apply for this funding stream the very best and my office is available to support you.