I understand that the Deputy’s Question relates to the establishment of a task force for north Kerry following the Programme for Government statement to withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest List in 2021.
I can advise the Deputy that the Government has committed to ensuring that local development plans are developed to stimulate economic activity for those areas that were expecting economic development arising from new fossil-fuel infrastructure. As part of this, the Government will consider the potential of the Shannon Estuary in terms of regional economic development across transport and logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism, and develop a strategy to achieve this potential, with support from the Exchequer.
I can however assure the Deputy that jobs and enterprise in the regions is a priority of Government and I want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic growth.
The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government provides that as Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality it does not make sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas.
The Deputy will be aware that my Department’s nine Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 were launched by my Department in early 2019 with the South-West Regional Enterprise Plan which covers counties Kerry and Cork being launched in February of that year. These Plans play a central role in supporting the delivery of balanced regional enterprise development and in ensuring that employment growth is spread across all regions. The Plans are also maintained as ‘live’ agendas which aim to be agile and responsive to both new opportunities and new challenges, for example: Brexit, Climate Action, Digital Economy, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic economic impacts.
At the end of June this year my predecessor as Minister, Heather Humphreys TD met with the Chairpersons of the nine Regional Enterprise Plan Committees including the Chair of the South-West Committee on a conference call and invited them to work with their Committees to identify proposals that would help to address economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in their region. These groups are meeting in virtual format over the coming weeks to focus on this and will report back to my Department, with a view to contributing to the development of the National Recovery Plan in due course.
I can advise the Deputy that the South West Regional Steering Committee met on 28th July last and considered the range of COVID-19 and wider economic challenges for the South West region and indeed issues arising in relation to vulnerable jobs and sectors. They are currently developing options for additional measures that can be taken for the region.
It is worth noting that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development and the South-West has seen a number of successes under my own Department’s regional funding streams. These include over €17.5m under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) and €987,478 under the Regional Technology Clustering Fund, with €581,138 being awarded to IT Tralee.
Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plan, and with all regional stakeholders working together, the South-West region is well positioned to realise its enterprise potential and see better quality, sustainable jobs and investment.