EU programme to strengthen links between Wales and Ireland set for launch

An EU funding programme that will invest around £75 million to strengthen economic links between Wales and Ireland will be formally launched today (Thursday 26th March).

The new Ireland-Wales Co-operation programme, which will run until 2020, will be launched by Welsh Government Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, and Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D., at an event taking place at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

The programme will see businesses and organisations across both nations working together on collaborative projects in areas including innovation, climate change, cultural and natural resources, heritage and tourism.

It will be managed by the Welsh Government in partnership with the Irish authorities.  People, businesses, social enterprises and communities within the north and west of Wales and the south and east of Ireland are set to benefit from the EU investment.

The programme builds on a previous EU-backed Ireland-Wales programme which assisted over 1,700 businesses, and created 100 new businesses and almost 300 new jobs between 2007 and 2014.

Welsh Government Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, said: ‘The Ireland-Wales programme which we are launching today provides us with an excellent vehicle for doing business with Ireland and to learn from each other to address common challenges and opportunities which cut across our sea border.

‘This new £75 million EU investment will create significant benefits for people, businesses and communities, helping us to build on our shared aspirations for economic growth and job creation.’

Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D. said: 

‘As a Minister from the region I am pleased that each project supported by this new investment will aim to increase jobs and growth, will have a high social impact and will advance social and economic cohesion across the Ireland Wales maritime border’.

‘The Ireland Wales Programme is a prime example of the cooperation between our two communities and of how EU funding can help bring the regions of Europe closer together.’ 

During their visit to Swansea, both Ministers will visit Swansea Bay to see the impact of an Ireland-Wales collaborative project on improving the quality of coastal areas to help boost tourism and support local economies.

Backed with EU funds of £2.7 million, the Smart Coasts project, led in Wales by Aberystwyth University working closely with University College Dublin in Ireland, has developed a new system to give real-time water quality information for bathers, and improve the understanding of pollution sources and the number of ‘Blue Flag’ beaches in line with European bathing water standards.

Professor David Kay of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University said: ‘The real-time management approach we have developed has been in use in Swansea since 2013 giving real public health benefits and providing the opportunity to improve bathing water compliance with current EU standards.

‘Successful application of this approach will be vital in keeping our ‘Blue Flag’ awards for resort town beaches in Ireland and Wales. The modelling to underpin this management initiative is ground breaking and gives more accurate water quality predictions than achieved to date anywhere else in the world.’