Cowen asks Taoiseach to ensure Offaly is prioritised for EU Just Transition funding

Laois/Offaly TD Barry Cowen has urged the Government to ensure that Offaly secures the largest slice of an €84.5m European fund to assist the transition to a green economy.

Deputy Cowen's call comes as the Government is due shortly to submit its territorial plan to access the funding to the European Commission for approval.

The final territorial plan, which sets out how Ireland proposes to invest funding from the EU Just Transition Fund, has yet to be published. It follows a public consultation process earlier this year on a draft territorial plan published in December.

Cowen has now written to the Taoiseach urging both the submission of the final territorial plan to the European Commission for approval as soon as possible and stressing the need for Offaly to be identified as the area most impacted by the transition process.

“It is imperative that this procedure of submission and approval is done asap. It is now over three years since Offaly County Councillor Eamon Dooley and I visited Brussels, met with the Commissioner and made the case for the inclusion of Peat Regions of Ireland with the already approved Coal Regions of Europe, providing funding to assist our region respond to the acceleration of decarbonisation,” he wrote.

In his correspondence to the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen also highlighted Offaly County Council's submission to the public consultation process, particularly analysis by consultants EnvEcon which found that Offaly is the most negatively affected county by decarbonisation.

He said: “I have no doubt therefore that targeted funding should reflect these findings from weighted multi-criteria assessment.”

The draft plan published last December proposed eight areas (counties or part of counties) including Offaly for special European funding to assist the transition to a green economy.

This was despite two reports from the European Commission recommending that the area for investment under the fund be more targeted.

The European Commission's 2020 European Semester Country Report for Ireland recommended that the Just Transition Fund be concentrated on Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath.

Analysis was also carried out by consultants through the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Programme to assess the most impacted territory, building on the European Semester Country Report.

It examined the eight counties covered by the Government's own just transition policy, together with Clare due to the expected closure of ESB’s coal fired power station, Moneypoint, later in this decade.

The report identified Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath as well as Roscommon as the most negatively impacted territories.

However, despite the European Commission reports, the Government's draft territorial Just Transition Plan, proposed eight counties.

It provisionally identified East Galway, North Tipperary, Longford, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, West Kildare and Roscommon as the territories to be targeted for investment.

Deputy Cowen also commended the Government's commitment to matching the EU €84.5m funding and welcomed the general agreement with the appointment of the Midlands East Regional Authority as the administrative entity to deliver the just transition funding.

He also called on the Government to include a special upgrade to the current national retrofitting scheme to allow an 80% insulation grant for households dependent on solid fuels for heating purposes.