As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, I have overall responsibility for EU Cohesion Policy and primary responsibility for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Minister for Education & Skills has primary responsibility for the European Social Fund (ESF). These two Funds, along with the Cohesion Fund (from which Ireland no longer benefits), the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF) (for which the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine has responsibility) now constitute the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
Ireland has been allocated a total of €3.5bn in ESI Funding for the 2014 -2020 period (€1.2bn of Structural Funds for the ERDF and the ESF, €2.2bn from the EAFRD and €148m for the EMFF). The policy context for the application of these allocations is set out in Ireland's Partnership Agreement (www.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Partnership-Agreement-Ireland-2014-2020.pdf) which is the overarching strategic document governing the ESI Funds.
With regard to the expected drawdown, it is expected that the allocated funds will be drawn down in full before programme closure.
The EU Regulations governing the ESI Funds outline eleven categories, known as Thematic Objectives, under which ESI funding may be spent by Member States. The funding priorities identified for Ireland's ESI Funds for the 2014-2020 period are:
- promoting jobs and growth;
- combating unemployment and social exclusion;
- promoting R&D and ICT investment and the competitiveness of the business sector; and
- promoting an environmentally friendly and resource efficient economy.
These investment priorities are being progressed by several Government Departments and a large number of Agencies under their aegis. Further details in relation to the projects funded can be obtained on the websites of the Managing Authorities for the various Funds, links to which can be found on the ESIF website at https://eufunds.gov.ie/.