Seanad debates

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Regional Aid

10:30 am

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also want to thank the Cathaoirleach for choosing this important matter.

Regional aid is an enhanced form of aid that can be provided to enterprises in more economically disadvantaged areas. It incentivises SMEs and large enterprises to invest in growth and expansion. Most important, it increases the attractiveness of these areas for investment. It is an important aid measure for enterprise agencies and to support Irish enterprises to grow and to expand as they attract foreign direct investment into this country. Grants and other state aid under the regional aid map are funded by the Exchequer. There is no EU or external funding.

I have asked the Minister of State to come before the House today because the Athy municipal district was previously in the regional aid map from 2014 to 2022. Unfortunately, in the map that has been most recently presented to us, the Athy municipal district, along with some municipal districts have been removed. The explanation as to why that may have happened is beyond many people in the region. There has been no great enterprise. There has been no great investment into job creation by the Government in that area since the 2014 announcement. Indeed, the regional aid, as I have said, is enterprise to encourage investment and job creation in an economically disadvantaged area.

The Athy municipal district has seen investment in a long-awaited road. We have been waiting over 40 years for it, but thankfully it has started. It will revitalise the area of south Kildare. There is also the issue right across the bottom of south Kildare that we are lacking investment in job creation and we are lacking the criteria to attract investment into that area. This is the case both for existing businesses and for attracting new businesses into the area. Over the last period of time, I have been contacted by a number of people who would like to invest in Athy. I have also used this regional aid map previously to show that there will be something there for there them when they come there. The fact that Athy has been removed from the regional aid map is worrying to say the least.

There can be no doubt that American Fruits & Flavor's recent announcement that it will invest in Athy is a positive move. We also have a number of attractive heritage trails, including the Shackleton Museum and the Athy Blueway, which will see potential for tourists coming to the town. Unfortunately, though, Athy still has much social deprivation. It still has many social indexes that we are concerned about. They should have shown up on the assessments that were done on this regional aid map.

I worry, too, that the announcement stated that any part of the county that had been previously on the map would still be included on the new map. However, that has not been the case for the Athy municipal district. It is also not the case because they have not actually been scored in the new map. This is because the Government policy is that they are seeking regionally balanced investment.

I would like to the hear the Minister of State talk today about what the Government is doing regarding investment in that particular area of south Kildare. What incentives are the Government planning for the area of south Kildare? We are surrounded by Portlaoise and Carlow. Both of those electoral areas are included in the regional aid map. That will cause serious problems for us in attracting investment into the area in which I live. I look forward to the Minister of State’s reply, which I am sure will encourage people to invest into south Kildare. I thank the Minister of State again for taking this Commencement matter.


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