Offaly Fine Gael TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, has welcomed a visit from the START Secretariat from the European Commission, to begin support for the Midlands as a new member of the European Platform for Coal Regions in Transition. START is the Secretariat Technical Assistance to Regions in Transition.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy said: “Following my representations to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD earlier this year, Ireland was successful in its application to the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition.
“The visit from the EU Commission’s Technical Team will seek to establish the support needed in the Midlands including the potential economic diversification and energy transition, strategic approach and scope for technical assistance.
“The visit from the START Secretariat will include meetings with Public Representatives, the Regional Skills Forum, Enterprise Ireland & IDA, ESB, Local Enterprise Offices and Local County Council Offices.
“The Government is committed to prioritising a just transition for the Midlands as can be seen from the recent budget, where a number of support measures were announced.
“The Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands was increased to €11m. In recognition of their longstanding relationship with communities in the Midlands, the ESB has agreed to contribute €5m to the existing fund increasing its total value to €11m. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
“€5m was allocated for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore non- Bord na Móna bogs to their natural habitat. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one, rising to 100 as the programme develops.
“€20m was allocated to deliver a new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social housing stock in the region during 2020.
“Kieran Mulvey was also appointed as the first Just Transition Commissioner and he will engage with all relevant stakeholders.”
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy concluded: “It is important the European Commission and Government continue to provide all of the supports required for the Midlands Region to ensure that the area continues to prosper as it transitions from brown to green. This should be seen as an opportunity not to be missed by the Midlands where supports from the EU and Government are used to create a cleaner more sustainable economy in the heart of the country.”