Celebrating 20 years of Ireland Wales Co-operation
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD and the Welsh Minister for Finance, Jane Hutt AM visited Dublin Castle on Friday 14 November to celebrate 20 years of the European fund, the Ireland Wales Programme, which brings together Irish and Welsh people and communities from both sides of the Irish Sea.
Minister Howlin praised the achievements of the Programme, “the strong historical and cultural bond between Ireland and Wales has been successfully nurtured by the Programme over the past two decades to benefit both nations. The benefits in the economic, cultural, environmental and academic spheres are well documented and can be seen here today. The Programme has supported our shared aspiration to build inclusive and sustainable communities”.
€180 million in ERDF grants has been invested since 1994 in successive Programmes to stimulate cross-border cooperation across the Irish Sea, with a further €100 million in investment planned for 2014-20. Originally launched as an EU INTERREG initiative, the Programme has supported over 300 cross-border projects to address common issues facing both Ireland and Wales in areas such as transport, environmental protection, community development, enterprise support, education, training, culture, heritage and tourism.
The 1994-99 Programme had a strong focus on improving maritime transport links and addressing common environmental problems in the Irish Sea. Its successor Programme, from 2000-06, broadened its maritime scope to tackle wider issues affecting enterprises and communities.
The 2007-13 Programme sees the culmination of another successful era which has funded 41 cross-border projects, totalling €51 million in ERDF. Taking a more strategic approach, the Programme has seen a diverse range of Irish and Welsh organisations work together to address common issues to support innovation, climate change and community regeneration. The Programme is managed in Ireland by the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly in partnership with the Welsh Government.
These successes will be furthered by plans for a new programme from 2014-20 and will be managed by the Welsh Government with the Irish Government and the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly. The new Programme will be worth €100 million and will have a clear jobs and growth focus. This new Programme will invest in the cross-border region in the areas of R&D and innovation, climate change adaptation and utilising cultural and national resources and heritage.
Closing the event, Minister Hutt said, “We are delighted to pick up the baton as the Managing Authority for the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme. Over the last 20 years this EU programme has been supporting innovative projects that have been making a real impact on our economies, people and communities. We have much to celebrate at this 20th anniversary event and we will build on the significant achievements made.”