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Connacht Tribune

European recovery plan is worth billions to Ireland

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Gerard Kiely, Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Ireland

By Gerard Kiely, Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Ireland

Since the corona virus pandemic struck, Ireland and the EU have taken unprecedented measures to protect lives and livelihoods. The EU supported national efforts to tackle the health crisis and cushion the impact of the massive economic hit. It freed up every available euro in its budget and used every inch of flexibility in its economic rules. This helped finance EU safety nets of €540 billion, including the new SURE instrument, to help people stay in work and to support hard-pressed families and businesses.

Now is the time for our European Union to look ahead and act together to repair the damage, re-start the economy and build a better and more sustainable future for the next generation. No country in Europe, including Ireland, can do this work alone. We must walk the road together. To this end, the European Commission proposed on 27 May a radical and historic € 1.85 trillion recovery plan. At its core is a €750 billion instrument, Next Generation EU, through which the European Commission will use its strong credit rating to raise huge funds on the financial markets and channel them to support recovery in Ireland and across the Europe.

Ireland is in a great position to take advantage of Europe’s new plan. It will benefit directly from the Next Generation EU grants worth almost €2 billion. Just over €1.2 billion will come from a new Recovery and Resilience Facility offering support for investments and reforms in relation to the green and digital transitions, and stronger economic resilience.

For rural communities across Europe, Next Generation EU contains a €15 billion boost for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. For rural Ireland, compared to the Commission’s 2018 proposal, this means an extra €354 million over the next seven years.

To help address the social and economic damage from the crisis, there will be new funding of €132 million for Ireland from a Just Transition Fund to help people re-skill and businesses create and develop new opportunities. Ireland is also set to benefit by €215 million under a new REACT-EU initiative, which can help pay for employment subsidies, short time work schemes and youth employment measures. It can also provide liquidity for cash-strapped businesses.

Over the next few weeks, the plan will be hotly debated, and as always, Ireland will be an influential and effective voice in this debate. As we begin to look ahead, Europe’s new and bold plan shows that the lessons and the suffering of the past have not been forgotten. We must all remember that this is Europe’s moment. We must rise from this crisis in a way that addresses the greatest of all crises – climate change. And we all must work to live up to that challenge for the sake of Europe’s future generation.

Connacht Tribune

Fuel for thought as we try and energise our wheels

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A good few years back . . . well probably even decades . . . I remember asking quite a knowledgeable motoring correspondent, long gone to his eternal reward, about the pros and cons of staying with petrol or switching to diesel. By the time his reply had finished, nearly 20 minutes had elapsed, and I was avalanched with so much data that I was no wiser at the end of the conversation than I was at the start.

I thought of that a few weeks before Christmas when I happened to tune in to a programme on Channel 4 – Dispatches – which examined the practicalities of owning and driving an electric car across the roads of the United Kingdom.

There is a wish amongst all of us to pursue a more environmentally friendly way of life. At this stage, we all probably know someone who has purchased a fully electric car and certainly many more who have dipped their toes into the waters of the hybrid models.

Anyway, the main theme of the Dispatches programme was that after 10-years of investment by the UK authorities in the infrastructure needed to support electric cars, quite a shocking number of charging points were either out of action or were not working to their full efficiency.

Nearly 10% of the ‘rapid chargers’ sampled across the UK were found not to be working properly, while 30 new ultra-rapid charges were also found to be dysfunctional to varying degrees. Some of the charging points had been out of action for six years and a percentage of those were unrepairable as their technology base was now obsolete.

Apart from their significant extra cost – even if one qualifies for the maximum €5,000 Government grant – the great fear I would have with the electric cars is that I’d find myself marooned in a corner of Kerry or Antrim, out of ‘juice’, and unable to access a charging point.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Farm buildings can be used as business hubs in rural areas

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Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind)

RURAL farm buildings should be utilised for small business enterprises which would supplement the income of landowners as well as creating some local employment in the process.

This was the view of the vast majority of Galway councillors who passed a motion that buildings directly relating to farming be considered for other purposes that would be financially advantageous to the owners.

The matter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Galway County Development Plan when it was suggested that the farming community needed to be allowed develop small business opportunities.

A motion from Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind) – deviating slightly from Galway County Council policy – proposed that they be allowed carry out businesses such as the servicing and repair of machinery, land reclamation, drainage works, and agricultural contracting was carried.

The motion added that this be allowed where it is financially advantageous to locate in a given area and where it would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

The Williamstown councillor said that it could result in hundreds of small business enterprises being developed out of farm buildings.

“At the moment they cannot get planning permission for such enterprises given that they are located in a rural area,” he argued.

He was supported by Cllr. Pete Roche (FG) who went further by saying that even the establishment of pet farms or animal farms that could be opened up to the public were also options that could be considered.

“There are farm families at the moment who cannot earn a decent living out of agriculture alone and would relish the opportunity to diversify,” he added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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