BIM, Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency and the South East Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) recently announced a local development strategy that will deliver €1.68 million to the region. The South East FLAG is one of seven FLAG groups that are participating in the Fisheries Local Area Group scheme which is co-funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and is administered by BIM. The National Programme will deliver €12 million in funding to coastal communities by 2020 towards projects that promote and support innovation by adding value to seafood products and diversifying the local economies in these coastal areas towards new economic activities, particularly in the broader maritime sector.
Well-known hotelier Liam Griffin, who is also Chairman of the South East Action Plan for Jobs Tourism Group, opened the event recently held at the Hook Lighthouse.
“This strategy is a great opportunity for the South East region,” he declared. “The members of the South East FLAG chaired by Noel McDonagh are all capable and dedicated leaders in the marine, tourism and business sectors and the tailored strategy they have produced is built on consultation and input from stakeholders within the coastal communities of counties Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford. I am delighted to have been invited here today to launch this programme and I would encourage local interests to take advantage of the funding available.”
The idea of developing ‘Blueways’ in addition to Greenways is clearly worthy of consideration, planning and, most importantly of all, funding. Boosting employment in these areas, many of which are isolated (with jobless rates reaching 25 per cent in some places), may also, in time, stem the flow of youth emigration to the Antipodes and North America. It’s hoped that this funding can help to drive local business growth and help to create new opportunities in aquaculture and tourism (including coastal walkways).
During the seminar, in which Liam Griffin and the equally amiable Noel McDonagh traded in some good hurling banter, Noel also made reference to the Dunmore Harbour study, which was conducted in co-operation with WIT and the local community. Its aim? To revive the harbour and inject fresh life into several buildings within the harbour facility proper.
But this will require co-ordinated support from central government, as well as additional European funding if new businesses are to get off the ground in Dunmore.
The labelling of locally fished and packed produce was also raised, and the idea of developing a brand comparable to that already well established in West Cork, was also discussed. Helvick Harbour in West Waterford has already received monies for storage facilities at the back of the harbour, while locations such as Rosslare benefited from the provision of additional security cameras on the harbour in the wake of a spate of engine thefts. Pontoons suitable for people with disabilities are being used already in Donegal, and this is also something which could be deployed across the south east.
At the event, we met with Donal O’Brien of the Copper Coast (the former Tramore CBS Principal), along with Eugene Bates of the South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum and a Mr O’Shea of Waterford City & County Council. All were enthusiastic about these projects and were happy to see the strategy receive a budget increase for this particular term.
The South East FLAG Strategy covers the coastal zones of Counties Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow. It notes that 1,233 people are employed in the marine/seafood sector in the region. The main fishing ports/harbours are Wicklow, Arklow, Wexford town, Rosslare harbour, Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East and Helvick. Both Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay are listed in the top five ports in Ireland with overall fish landings of 10,978 tonnes.
Michael Keatinge, Interim CEO, BIM outlined how important this programme is to the region.
“The FLAG programme is designed to empower coastal communities to develop their own strategies that will leverage and maximise the marine opportunities in the area,” he said.
“Over the period of the last FLAG programme from 2012-2015, more than 180 projects were awarded grants of just under €1m towards a wide range of initiatives targeting job creation, social inclusion, tourism, regeneration and market development supported around the coastline. 
“The South East region has a strong maritime industry and heritage and this new strategy will provide a funding mechanism to develop this industry and associated community projects.”
The deadline to apply for funding to the South East FLAG is tomorrow, Wednesday, March 15th at 5pm; please contact John Hickey, South East FLAG Facilitator on 053-9129632 for further information and send completed applications to Caroline Curraoin, FLAG Investment Coordinator, c/o BIM, PO Box 9799, Crofton Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. Please note applications must be consistent with the South East FLAG Local Development Strategy which is available on www.bim.ie.