Yesterday I signed strategic investment plans worth €820.2 million for Ireland's regions, along with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin and Chairs of the Southern Regional Assembly and the Northern and Western Regional Assembly of Ireland. The investments will support SMEs - spearheading entrepreneurship initiatives to boost their growth and competitiveness, while also supporting the roll out of broadband coverage.
Through the Structural Funds, the Irish economy was transformed in the 1990s and living standards in Irish regions improved greatly thanks to the targeted investments worth more than €17 billion from EU Structural and Cohesion Funds support since Ireland joined the Union in 1973.
Meeting with Minister Brendan Howlin, responsible for EU Structural and Investment Funds in Ireland, and Irish regions representatives - Councillor Kevin O'Keeffe, 'Cathaoirleach' (Chair) of the Southern Regional Assembly, and Councillor Seamus O'Domhnaill, of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, I am convinced of the country's commitment to build on that success.
Together we signed Operational Programmes (OPs) worth €498.2m for the Southern and Eastern region of Ireland and €320.2m for the Border, Midlands and Western region.
These regional OPs will pave the way for investments in carefully chosen sectors that have proven to have the greatest impact on sustainable growth and jobs in Ireland. These include targeted support for small business - enabling them to create jobs, work with research centres to innovate and compete on wider markets. Also roll out of next generation broadband - reducing isolation and enhancing connectivity of rural areas. And importantly - working towards our target of a low-carbon economy, they'll invest in energy efficiency in housing leading to warmer homes, cheaper energy bills and reduced CO2 emissions.
I look forward to the results and to our partners in Ireland, I say:
Go nÉirí Libh! (good luck!)