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O’Neill Launches £2.6million Scheme For County Down Fishing Communities
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FISHERIES Minister Michelle O’Neill officially launched the £2.6million South East Area European Fisheries Fund during a visit to the County Down fishing port of Ardglass.

The £2.6million programme of investment is provided through the European Fisheries Fund and is aimed at supporting projects and initiatives that focus on the sustainable socio-economic development of County Down’s fishing communities.

Kevin McGarry, Sea-FLAG programme manager, Fisheries Minister Michele O'Neill and Councillor John Burns, SEA_FLAG Chairman at the offical launch of the EU funded AXIS 3 programme in support if the fishing communities in Northern Ireland.

Kevin McGarry, Sea-FLAG programme manager, Fisheries Minister Michele O’Neill and Councillor John Burns, SEA_FLAG Chairman at the offical launch of the EU funded AXIS 3 programme in support if the fishing communities in Northern Ireland.

The fund will support a broad range of projects that focus on community development; business development and diversification; tourism and leisure; and, technical development support.

The funding programme will be administered by the South East Area (SEA) Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) which comprises of representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors within the three council regions of Ards, Down, and Newry and Mourne.

Speaking at the event today (17 October), the Minister said: “This fund will provide meaningful benefits to the communities along the County Down coastline that continue to rely on the fishing industry for many of its job opportunities and wealth.

“The bottom-up approach used in developing the strategy to support the fund, which has drawn on the experiences gained from previous programmes of support, helps ensure that the available support focuses on addressing the needs of communities as they themselves have identified. I commend SEA-FLAG in delivering the required strategy and would encourage anyone with any project, or project idea, that is linked to community, business, tourism or leisure development to engage with the SEA-FLAG group to determine what financial and/or technical development assistance can be provided.”

The Minister added: “This funding represents one of the largest allocations awarded to any one Fisheries Local Action Group throughout Europe and should serves as a sign of confidence government holds in SEA-FLAG’s ability to deliver a meaningful programme of benefits.”

In responding to the Minister’s comments, the Chair of SEA-FLAG, Councillor William Burns said: “I am delighted that our local fisheries communities of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie now have the opportunity to benefit from Axis 4 funding. In the current economic climate, we all need to be resourceful, flexible and be prepared to adapt to change.

Fisheries MInister Michele O'Neil speaking at the launch of the EFF Sea-Flag programme.

Fisheries MInister Michele O’Neil speaking at the launch of the South East Area EFF programme.

“I feel this fund provides an exciting opportunity for us all to strengthen and diversify our economy and society and make a real difference to our local communities through developing and delivering innovative projects. We are looking forward to accepting a wide range of applications coming through following today’s launch and would encourage everyone who feels they may benefit from this much-needed support to contact our office to discuss what support can be provided.”

The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) Programme will provide the NI fishing industry with €36.2million of grant assistance until it closes on 31 December 2015. The European Commission is providing €18.1million of support with the remaining €18.1million being provided by Executive funds.

EFF support is provided under 4 Priority Axes, namely:

Priority Axis 1 Measures for the adaptation of the Community Fishing Fleet.
Priority Axis 2 Aquaculture, Inland Fishing, Processing and Marketing of Fishery and Aquaculture Products.
Priority Axis 3 Measures of Common Interest.
Priority Axis 4 Sustainable Development of Fisheries Areas.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie Welcomes Fisheries Fund

Speaking at the launch of South East Fisheries Fund in Ardglass, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: “I very much welcome the launch today of this £2.6 million Fisheries Fund. This Fund is a great opportunity for the communities in the South East of Northern Ireland.

“The focus must be in delivering the best projects with the optimum outcomes for the community in our coastal areas. The forerunner of this fund, the Fisheries Taskforce has provided a solid learning and evidence base in relation to what can be achieved, and what is best for the overall regeneration of our fishing villages and towns.

“The Fisheries Taskforce, and now this scheme are in response to the harsh imposition of EU cuts and regulations on our fishing industry and communities. In 1991 the fishing industry in Northern Ireland had 1,396 men fishing at sea, this number reduced to 800 in 2012, the good news is this is a 32% increase on last year.  The onshore industry is dependent on the off shore and vice versa. With this increase in men at sea and our ports still maintaining their place  among the top 20 fishing ports in Britain and Northern Ireland, we must be doing something right.

“However, we must not be complacent and we have some way to go. We must continue to ensure that we maintain and sustain our fishing industry and our coastal communities – that is what the launch of this fund is about.

While many talk of a turnaround in the fishing industry for our fishermen, the fact is that the onshore industry has been hit hard over the last number of years and we continue to see job losses across this sector.”

Ms Ritchie added that the challenge for SEA FLAG in the delivery of Axis 4 is to increase social and economic benefits and future employment to the coastal communities of County Down. She added: “I am confident that our fishing industry and related industries can bring further benefit to their communities with the assistance of Axis 4.

“And I am also confident that the renewable and tourism sectors have the ability to bring additional employment and opportunities to the area. In this regard Axis 4 and SEA FLAG have the opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on our fishing communities.

“This £2.6 million fund and hopefully the relocation of the Department of Agriculture’s Fisheries Division to South Down in the near future will give a boost to our local economy. We must all work together to ensure the relocation of the Fishery Division jobs and the new employment opportunities that can come from this funding scheme.”

Ardglass Councillor Dermot Curran Says Opportunity Knocks On Door Of The Fishing Communities

Ardglass Councillor Dermot Curran speaking after the launch said he was delighted that the substantial fund of £2.6 million was targeted at the fishing villages and added: “The fishing industry has had a very difficult time in recent years due to high fuel prices, quota cuts, technical measures from Brussels and the economic recession affecting the market and prices.

‘The local fishing communities have suffered as a result, and this funding package will offer some encouragement towards community renewal. There is much this fund can create such as helping to lever funds from other programmes toward s building a hotel on Ardglass. Ardglass Golf Club gets over 7000 visitors a year and forty per cent of these are North Americans. There are many niches where this fund can help the local economy and promote job creation.”

You can access the South East Area European Fisheries Fund at:

www.seaeff.co.uk