Speech by Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD at the announcement of the Shared Island Local Authority Development Funding Scheme awards

Published on: 29 September 2022


I am delighted to be here in Cavan today, to meet with you all, and to announce together with Minister Darragh O’Brien, the successful awards from the Shared Island Local Authority Development Funding Scheme.I would like to thank Cavan County Council and the Townhall Theatre for hosting us today. 

 

The Townhall is a venue steeped in culture, creativity and history. Built on a site donated by Lord Farnham, and officially opened in 1910, the Town Hall was originally home to Cavan Town Council before serving as a meeting place for the wider Cavan community. It operated as a Dancehall, Theatre, Cinema, Meeting Venue and even Bingo Hall. So this has always been a place of bringing old and young together, forging friendships and new relationships.  A place for people with shared interests to come together and see what is possible.And here we are, more than 100 years later, coming together once again with a shared and forward-looking purpose.Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an gcúig Údarás Áitiúil déag agus an naoi gComhaire Áitiúil i dTuaisceart Éireann ar bronnadh €4.3milliún orthu le borradh a chur faoin obair trasteorann ar bhonn comhpháirtíochta faoinár Scéim Oileán Comhroinnte do Mhaoiniú Forbartha sna hUdaráis Áitiúla atá á stiúrú ag an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta.Thairis sin, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis na comhairlí uile a chur isteach ar an Scéim.

 

[I would like to congratulate the 15 Local Authorities and the 9 Northern Ireland Councils who have been awarded a total of €4.3 million in funding to take forward work on a cross-border partnership basis under our Shared Island Local Authority Development Funding Scheme operated by the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government.

 

I also want to thank all of the applicant Councils under the Scheme.]When I launched the Government’s Shared Island initiative in 2020, I set out a vision for an ambitious and targeted programme of investment cooperation that would benefit the whole island.

 

As well as delivering on major long-standing cross-border commitments like the Ulster Canal and Narrow Water Bridge, I also wanted to see a new pipeline of strategic North-South projects developed and progressed. 

 

Both goals are now being realised, supported by the Shared Island Fund and this awards scheme.Our €1 billion Shared Island Fund is being delivered through all-island partnerships working with the Northern Ireland Executive, UK Government, Local Authorities as well as education and civil society partners across the island.

 

We have so far allocated more than €120million from the Shared Island Fund.

 

The Government will continue to invest at this unprecedented level - working both North/South and East/West - to invest in the future of our shared island.

 

Today’s awards recognise the unique role, experience and expertise of Local Authorities:

 

- Working in and with your communities, you are so well-placed to identify needs at a local and regional level;

 

- To see where cross-border cooperation presents an opportunity to do something bigger or better as part of your work;

 

- To build the relationships, trust, and common purpose needed deliver effective cross-border projects.

 

The Good Friday Agreement is fundamentally about working across our communities and borders in practical ways for a better and more reconciled island.

 

Local Authorities have always been a vital part of that endeavour.

 

Including through delivery of the successive EU PEACE and INTERREG programmes and the work of cross-border partnerships in the North West, Central and East border regions.

 

Through today’s scheme, the Government is championing your role, record and capacity in this practical peace-building.

 

Providing resourcing to develop ambitious joint investment projects; which will help bring more energy, innovation and impact to cross-border cooperation in the time ahead.

 

Enabling you to deliver more effectively on regional development goals;

 

And supporting the Government’s National Development Plan priority to invest for a more connected, sustainable and prosperous island for all.

 

With 25 projects now equipped with the necessary development funding, I am eager to see these impressive, collaborative proposals progress.I am struck, not only by the diverse range of projects which have come through the process, but also by the significant geographic spread across the island, which is so welcome.

 

Local Authorities in the border region have long-standing partnerships which will be supported and enhanced through this scheme.

And I am also heartened to see new partnerships emerge - such as Waterford working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; Carlow collaborating with Ards and North Down; Galway County Council partnering with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; and not forgetting Cork City Council, which is working with Derry City and Strabane District Council and Belfast City Council on two separate projects.

 

I am delighted too, by the high calibre and wide range of proposals that have been made.

 

When I and Minister Darragh O’Brien announced this funding call in April, we could not have hoped for more substantive, innovative and impactful projects, than those that are now being taken forward.

 

At a time of exorbitant energy costs, it is welcome that Councils will work together on decarbonisation strategies, the circular economy and to examine sustainable fuel sources for their fleets.

 

This is important work which will shape local and regional policies and will complement the overall frameworks, North and South, on reaching a net zero carbon future on this island.Similarly, the number of projects incorporating biodiversity and nature-based solutions is very welcome.

 

The joint work undertaken by Cavan County Council and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on Cuilcagh Mountain exemplifies the fact that biodiversity does not recognise borders.

 

We need to shape nature-based solutions together North and South; to conserve our priceless natural heritage and biodiversity and maximise the benefits for our communities, our island and indeed the planet.I know that Gráinne O’Connor will outline the important work that is being taken forward to this end on Cuilcagh Geopark, and I am looking forward to hearing more about that, this afternoon.Cuilcagh is one of a number of projects being funded through today’s scheme that combine biodiversity conservation with sustainable tourism.

 

And this, I believe, is one of the positives borne out of the Covid-19 pandemic with which we are still grappling.

 

The last two years brought immense suffering and loss. People made huge sacrifices to protect themselves and each other. They stayed within their 2 kilometres, 5 kilometres, their county, and in doing so, many reconnected with their surroundings.

People spent more time walking along canals, rivers, in their local forest park; and as restrictions eased, began exploring other parts of this island, and its almost boundless natural amenity.

Reflecting this increased popularity of walking, cycling and other outdoor activities, the Shared Island Local Authority scheme has approved development funding for 8 new sustainable tourism projects.

 

Which have the potential to attract visitors from across the island, and beyond, providing a sustainable economic boost for the local and regional economies.And indeed, enterprise and innovation is the focus for 5 of the other funded projects, with a particular emphasis on cross-border business hubs and sectoral clusters to maximise regional strengths.

 

The collaboration between Galway Council and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon on agri-food infrastructure strikes me as a project which has great all-island potential.

 

I have long called for a more agile, collaborative approach on enterprise and innovation to release the full economic capacity of border regions and indeed the whole island.

 

The Government is now supporting Local Authorities, Agencies, Entrepreneurs and Innovators to shape new cross-border investment propositions that can help to achieve that in real terms.

 

So, this is a very exciting time for all involved in this new scheme – like that moment before kick-off in an important match – there is expectation, determination and shared ambition. 

 

Over the next 12 months, your plans will take shape and these projects will become more refined.

 

It is my hope, that by this time next year many of you will be in a position to seek funding to bring forward these capital projects, supported by funding sources on both sides of the border including from the Shared Island Fund.Agus an beart seo á sheoladh agam siar sa bhliain 2020, dúirt mé go soiléir go mbaineann bríonna difriúla le hOileán Comhroinnte – ag brath ar do chúlra agus do dhúchas, ó Thuaidh agus ó Dheas.Ach, is mar thoradh ar an gcomhoibriú inár gcontaetha, inár gceantair agus inár bpobail a spreagfadh tuiscint níos fearr eadrainn; ar na nithe atá i coiteann againn agus iad atá éagsúil óna chéile; agus go sonrach, ar an mbealadh is fearr le dul chun cinn a dhéanamh le chéile ar an Oileán seo.Agus, is é seo an mórsprioc atá ag teacht i gcrích inniu leis an gcúig thionscadal agus fiche nua-sheolta seo.

 

[When I launched our initiative in 2020, I said that a shared island means different things, depending on where you’re from and where you stand, both North and South.

 

It is only by interacting across our counties, council areas and communities that we better understand each other; our commonalities and differences; how we can live well together on this island into the future.

 

And that’s what’s being taken forward in very real terms through the 25 new projects commencing today.]

The Government is proud to support each project, as we work with all communities and political traditions on this island for a shared, reconciled future, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

 

I wish all of the Council partnerships the best of luck with your work in the year ahead and look forward to hearing more about the projects themselves this afternoon.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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