Offaly County Council welcomes the publication of the first Progress Report of the Just Transition Commissioner
Offaly County Council welcomes the publication of the first Progress Report of the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr. Kieran Mulvey, launched by Minister Bruton yesterday evening. The report details stakeholder engagement to date with Bord na Móna, ESB and a wide range of stakeholders across the region. It contains a number of recommendations to provide support and new employment opportunities for workers and communities impacted by the acceleration of decarbonisation, thereby ensuring a just transition, whilst also sustaining our rural communities.
Budget 2020 provided for a suite of measures to support a just transition for the Midland Region, namely the appointment of a Just Transition Commissioner, provision for a Midlands Just Transition Fund, the Midlands Deep Retrofit Programme and the NPWS Bog rehabilitation programme.
Cathaoirleach, of Offaly County Council, Councillor Peter Ormond, welcomed publication of the report and thanked Mr. Kieran Mulvey for his work. He said ‘the urgency in creating jobs is the cornerstone of our work and we must use this report to ensure that the money earmarked is used immediately and provided to upskill the workforce’. He said ‘Offaly County Council looks forward to the implementation of programmes across a range of schemes and initiatives commencing shortly’. He also welcomed the Minister’s commitment that the Department will work with ESB and owners of State lands to identify how their land and assets can be used for Green Energy Projects and to develop a Green Energy Hub. He welcomed the recognition of the shortfall in commercial rates for Councils and said it was important that discussions commence between local authority officials and the Department on this issue. He also welcomed Government’s plan to establish a Centre for Climate Change / Peatlands Centre of Excellence / Visitor Centre to be funded through an EU Life Project.
Chief Executive of Offaly County Council Ms. Anna Marie Delaney said “Offaly County Council will work with communities and stakeholders to deliver economic and social interventions in support of a Just Transition for the county and the region”. She said the commitment to prioritise the Midlands for Broadband connections will complement Offaly’s Digital Strategy and will facilitate increased availability of remote working hubs and co-working facilities in Offaly to add to those developed by Offaly County Council in recent years.
She referenced the current pandemic situation saying the way in which we work is changing. “In Offaly, we currently have remote working facilities at the Junction, Tullamore, eHive, Edenderry and Stream, Birr. The Midlands has recently established a Midlands Network of Co-working Facilities comprising of over 20 facilities which can provide flexible working solutions. The Network is exploring opportunities to provide additional enterprise space in impacted communities as facilities become vacant. This is delivering on the Midland Regional Enterprise Plan and contributes to the Enterprise Ireland ‘Powering the Regions’ policy to provide 600 spaces in the Midland Region”.
Offaly County Council welcomed the Government’s reference, in responding to the report, of its commitment to the Midlands Retrofit Scheme with €20m allocated in Budget 2020 for the support of up to 340 jobs directly or indirectly through retrofitting social houses. The scheme design has been completed and final survey work and procurement of the build programme will commence when public health advice permits. It also acknowledges the designation in March 2020 of the SOLAS NZEB Training Facility at Mount Lucas and the delivery of the Retrofit training programme from there.
The role of tourism and leisure in the providing for economic recovery is also acknowledged in the Government’s response. Recent and proposed Government supports for Tourism, Heritage and Leisure facilities in Offaly play an important role in this including Greenway and amenity development and potential linkages for Blueways, Greenways and Peatways. Fáilte Ireland supports for the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Irelands Ancient East Regional Tourism brands are also key.
Ms. Anna Marie Delaney said “the commencement of the EU Start Engagement Process is welcomed as is the roll out of funds for job creation and supports for local community based organisations, public, private and third sector organisations”. The EU Start Engagement Process opened on 22nd May. Project proposals must be submitted by Friday 12th June. Registering projects through this Engagement Process is the first stage in applying for funds from the JustTransition Fund. Project proposal forms for completion are available on midlandsireland.ie. Completed forms should be submitted by Friday 12th June, following the guidance provided.