Month: July 2020
Added July 29th, 2020
Limerick TD and Minister of the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan has confirmed funding of €150,000 for the Limerick Greenway.
This funding will be used to carry out a Feasibility Study and Options Report for a 22km section from Rathkeale to Patrickswell through Adare. The Limerick Greenway would form part of the Great Southern Greenway.
Minister O’Donovan said: “Our greenway plays an important role in supporting local communities to create jobs and brings visitors to our area.
“As we have seen over the course of the lockdown, people are eager to get out into nature and avail of the stunning scenery in our country.
“This funding will support the Greenways Strategy and help local authorities around the country prepare Greenway projects to be ready for construction funding in the coming years.
“Our local greenway will encourage tourism in the future, and will also provide a safe, segregated space for people walking and cycling”
Added July 28th, 2020
Today, Patrick O’Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) officially opened the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way Viewing point at the clifftop site of the OPW run Ionad an Bhlascaoid (Blasket Centre) in Dún Chaoin in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. This new and exciting addition to the tourism infrastructure of the Dingle Peninsula, designed by Paul Arnold Architects was built by the Office of Public Works under a strategic partnership with Fáilte Ireland.
The Viewing platform is part of a major programme of investment of €2,610,794 in the Blaskets by the strategic partnership of Fáilte Ireland, the OPW and the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht. The overall project includes the restoration of the original house on the Great Blasket Island of the renowned Island writer Tomás Ó Criomhthain, the development of a walkway and viewing platform at the clifftop site and a major upgrade of the exhibition at Ionad an Bhlascaoid. Fáilte Ireland’s investment in the Blaskets comes under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 strategy with the aim of driving sustainable growth in the Irish tourism sector and higher revenue and job creation around Ireland.
Opening the striking new Viewing Point overlooking the Blasket Sound, Minister O’Donovan said “The development of this viewing platform will complement the existing Ionad an Bhlascaoid which is an important national heritage facility which focuses on the unique literary heritage of the Great Blasket. It also creates a focal point for visitors to the Dingle Peninsula along the Wild Atlantic Way to stop, slow down and safely experience the breath-taking views of the Blasket Islands and the rugged beauty of this idyllic part of West Kerry. The walkway and viewing point are accessible to people of all ages and abilities and makes extraordinary places such as this within reach – free of charge – to citizens and visitors.”
Minister O’Donovan said “The Viewing Point is the first phase of a major re-development of the Blasket Centre, which was originally built in 1993 in conjunction with locally based Fondúireacht an Bhlascaoid. We are at an advanced stage on a major upgrade of the exhibitions at Ionad an Bhlascaoid which is due to commence in October, and will be opened in 2021. This represents a serious commitment by the OPW to the heritage and culture of An Blascaod Mór which, will strengthen its role in this Gaeltacht area and showcase the cultural heritage of these islands and its inhabitants for visitors both from home and abroad.
Minister O’Donovan concluded “Covid -19 has seriously affected the Tourism sector in the last few months and my colleagues in Government have identified the need to act quickly in stimulating the economy, especially around home tourism. I have recently launched the Free Admission initiative at OPW Heritage Sites, of which the Visitor Centre is one, to offer all visitors access to the many historic buildings and sites in Ireland. I would encourage everyone to go out and explore and enjoy what Ireland has to offer, from our rich heritage to our breath-taking scenery that is only a stone’s throw away. We all need to play our part in getting Ireland back on its feet again.”
Minister O’Donovan announces free admission to OPW visitor Heritage sites as part of Government’s July Stimulus Plan
Added July 24th, 2020
Mr. Patrick O’ Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) today announced that admission charges to certain OPW Heritage sites are being waived as part of the Government’s July Stimulus Plan in an effort to encourage domestic tourism and support the tourism economy.
The measure will take effect from Monday next, 27th July and will remain in force until the end of the year. This measure is being implemented as a support to the domestic Irish tourism economy and to provide a greater appeal to Irish people to stay at home and take staycations and short breaks within Ireland particularly over the next 6 months.
“From my previous experience as Minister for Tourism, I am aware that the Visitor sites in the care of the OPW are highly prized by Irish people” the Minister said today. “Many of us visited places like Glendalough and the Rock of Cashel on school tours and they are a big part of our childhood for a lot of us. I’m convinced that the fondness and pride Irish people harbour for our national Heritage sites is a result of our collective childhood memories. That’s why I think that this initiative I am introducing today as part of the Government’s July Stimulus will appeal to people who are looking for a different holiday experience that has something for everyone.”
OPW manages 70 visitor sites around the country including some of the most iconic historic locations like the Rock of Cashel, Dún Aonghasa and Castletown House. These sites play a very significant part of the cultural and heritage tourism offering and last year attracted a total of over 9.3m visitors, many of them foreign tourists. Research by Fáilte Ireland indicates that significant numbers of domestic visitors also cited history and culture destinations as one of their motivating factors for visiting places in Ireland.
The Minister has acted to capitalise on this by making the majority of these places more accessible for those on a budget who are looking for an enjoyable way to spend their 2020 holidays.
“The economy has suffered a huge shock because of Covid-19” the Minister said “and this is particularly the case in the Tourism sector where so many people depend on a strong visitor economy to provide them with jobs.
Government have identified the need to act quickly and decisively in support of the tourism sector and the OPW Heritage sites will play a part in that by making it attractive cost-wise for individuals and families to visit and for Tour Operators who wish to bring organised groups.”
A small number of the busiest sites will not be offered with free admission as there are concerns that they might be overwhelmed with large numbers of visitors and create a significant Covid-19 risk.
“Ten locations in all will maintain an admission charge”, John Mc Mahon, the OPW’s Heritage Commissioner said today “and at three of these locations we are actually admitting people at half price. These are very popular and busy sites in the normal course and we feel that declaring them free admission will create a possibility that many more people will come to them than they can safely handle.”
Like all other public venues, OPW’s Heritage sites have been closed to the public since March but, with the progressive reopening of the economy announced in recent weeks by Government, sites are beginning to open their doors again. Though Covid-19 restrictions will of course be in place with limits on numbers and access to certain closed and confined spaces not available*, OPW still hopes to offer visitors an enjoyable and memorable experience in some of the most important historic buildings and sites in Ireland with admission charges lifted for the remainder of the year**.
The Minister concluded “As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past few months and I’m hoping with this measure to remind people of what’s on their doorstep here in Ireland and encourage them to help Ireland’s tourism industry to make it through 2020 and come back with a real bang in 2021. Hopefully people will be able to discover something new or maybe they’ll be able to relive a childhood experience with their own families, but I’d encourage everyone to get out there and see what Ireland has to offer.”
A full list of the OPW sites and their charging regimes is available at OPW Heritage Sites or check http://www.heritageireland.ie for additional information on each site including opening times, booking requirements, contact details, etc. We advise that you check with the individual heritage sites for openings, booking policy, etc., prior to travelling, as restrictions will be in place at many sites*.
* Details of OPW’s visitor sites which are available to visit are on http://www.heritageireland.ie together with information on opening hours and other relevant information. Restrictions on availability of certain parts of the visitor experience may not always be fully detailed as these change from time to time and intending visitors are strongly advised to check with the site in advance.
Certain of the busiest sites are available on a pre-booked basis only by online booking and this will be indicated on the Heritage Ireland website.
** Normal admission charges will reapply with effect from 1 January 2021.
Stimulus package is Government’s commitment to business, jobs and recovery across Limerick – O’Donovan
Added July 23rd, 2020
A new Employment Wage Support Scheme and extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment into next year will provide much needed certainty to businesses and individuals in Limerick Minister and Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said
Speaking after the Government’s July Stimulus package was announced, Minister Patrick O’Donovan said the new €7.4bn suite of measures will help get Limerick’s businesses back on their feet and get as many people as possible back to work quickly while continuing to manage the impact of Covid-19.
This package which Fine Gael in Government has been working on will
• help businesses and create jobs
• support all get back to work – especially young people
• build confidence and invest in communities
• prepare Ireland for a sustainable economy in the future
Patrick O’Donovan said: “I’m pleased to confirm a new Employment Wage Support Scheme will succeed the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and run until April 2021.
“Employers in Limerick whose turnover has fallen 30% will receive a flat-rate subsidy of up to €203 per week per employee, including for seasonal staff and new employees.
“New firms operating in impacted sectors will also be eligible. The scheme will support around 350,000 jobs into the beginning of next year.”
“The restart grant for enterprises will benefit a range of SMEs. It will be expanded by €300m bringing the total funding to €550m. The payment level is being increased to €25,000. Further payments may be available to those firms which have already received them. Other businesses, such as B&Bs across Limerick, not previously included in the scheme, will now be eligible.”
Businesses forced to close due to public health requirements will be granted a waiver of commercial rates for the six months to end-September 2020.
“Those without work – especially young people – need as much support as possible. The Pandemic Unemployment Payment, due to end in August 2020, is being extended until April 2021. We know that this is extremely helpful to those not working. We have heard that testimony repeatedly. This will provide security for households across Limerick as job opportunities return.”
“To help restore consumer confidence and support retailers and businesses across Limerick, there will be a 6-month reduction in the standard rate of VAT from 23pc to 21pc, from the beginning of September.
“Our tourism sector has been crippled by Covid-19. A new Stay and Spend incentive will allow any taxpayer who pays over €625 on accommodation, food and non-alcoholic drinks, between October and April 2021, claim back up to €125 through a tax credit.
“Housing is a priority for this Government and further levels of support under the Help to Buy Scheme at cost of €18m will be made available.
“Until the end of this year, buyers will be able to reclaim up to 10pc, or a maximum of €30,000 of the price of a new build, up from 5pc or €20,000 previously.
“A further €500m will be used in capital expenditure nationwide for works to: schools, transport infrastructure, heritage, arts, tourism and Gaeltacht related projects, peatlands rehabilitation, a national retrofit programme, town and village renewal, fishery and on-farm renewable energy investments. Further details on these will be forthcoming.”
Minister O’Donovan continued: “With a strong focus on investing in training and skills development, 19,000 places on the Government’s Skills to Compete programme will equip people for emerging growth sectors and occupations.
“Businesses will be supported to adapt to the green economy, with €10m set aside for engaging in green research, development and innovation, capital investment, and capacity building, through the first phase of a new Green Enterprise Fund.
“Today’s package also contains a €20m Brexit fund to help SMEs involved in exporting and importing with the UK and further afield to equip themselves for new customs arrangements from next January.
“Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on communities, businesses, families and individuals across Limerick. Our absolute aim and priority is the wellbeing of every person and community in Limerick.”
“Since March, unprecedented levels of support have already been deployed to help businesses and our people, including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Restart Grant, Rates Waivers, and credit schemes for businesses of all sizes. Fine Gael has not been found wanting in any respect and the work to help all continues.
“Prior to the July Stimulus Package, business and employment support measures came to a total of €14.6bn.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Irish people, large parts of the economy in Limerick are now safely re-opened.
“However, some parts remain closed, while many open businesses are severely impacted by reduced demand, as well as social distancing and public health requirements.
“Now is the right time to start on the path to a jobs-led sustainable recovery. The July Stimulus of over €7 billion will build economic confidence, within public health constraints, and deliver immediate effective supports to get people back to work, Minister O’Donovan concluded.
For more details on the Stimulus Package: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c48ab-july-jobs-stimulus/
Financial supports and help to address the digital divide at third level for students in Limerick – O’Donovan
Added July 22nd, 2020
Limerick TD and Minister of the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan has welcomed a significant package to assist third level institutions with reopening and help end the digital divide which will benefit students in Limerick.
Minister O’Donovan said the €168 million package will ensure our third level institutions have the necessary tools to return to education in a safe manner and ensure all students can access remote learning.
“Throughout the pandemic, further and higher education never closed. Even during the most restricted period of the pandemic, institutions and providers continued to provide education through emergency remote learning. We need to support them now as students seek to return in September. This significant financial package for our third level institutions will assist with their safe re-opening.”
“In addition, significant further supports are being put in place for students, including increasing student supports, access to mental health services and a new scheme aimed at helping students with access issues. The Government also acknowledges that there is a significant digital divide emerging among the student population.”
“Many students have difficulties accessing devices such as laptops or tablets, while some can’t access WiFi and others need assistance in using the devices for college work. This new scheme of €15 million will help us address that digital divide and give students the tools to continue their education. Funding will also be provided for research projects that could not be completed during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The package today responds to the serious financial impact of Covid-19 on third level education but it also provides supports to meeting the student and learner requirements. A critical requirement has been identified for students and learners who are experiencing difficulty in accessing course provision and completing assessment owing to not having access to devices. This cohort are the most vulnerable students who need assistance and support to remain in education and complete their studies.”
“In addition, my Fine Gael colleague, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris is publishing a high level Further and Higher Education Roadmap, which will offer guidance on the return across further and higher education.”
“This guidance has been prepared on a consultative basis with stakeholders and the assistance of public health expertise available to the Department. This guidance is a live document and can change and update as public health advice evolves.
“We want to see students back at college, but it must be safe for students, safe for staff and safe for the community. We must continue to stay vigilant and adapt our plans in line with the progression of Covid-19. With additional funding and guidance, our third level institutions have the necessary tools to return to education in a safe manner.”
Practical Guidance for Further and Higher Education for Returning to On-site Activity is available at gov.ie/backtocollege
Added July 3rd, 2020
Limerick TD and Minister for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan has confirmed that a total of €3,454,722 has been approved and paid out to Limerick businesses under the Government’s Restart Grant to aid reopening after COVID-19.
“The Government’s Restart Grant involves direct grant aid to micro and small businesses of between €2,000 and €10,000, to help with the costs associated with reopening and re-employing workers following COVID-19 closures.
“Business owners and their staff have been through incredibly difficult times recently and it is so welcome that the Government is doing everything possible to support them to open up again.
“This work was begun by Fine Gael in the last government and it is welcome that the new Government is prioritising the recovery from the economic shock of Covid-19. They are working to repair the damage that has been done and restore confidence and prosperity. Small businesses will play a huge role in that as they are the lifeblood of the local economy.
“The latest figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, now headed up by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, show that €3,454,722 has been approved and paid to businesses in Limerick since the Restart Grant was formed. This is the highest amount paid out of all the local authority areas in the Country so far.
“These targeted supports that have been developed by the Department in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices, will be available to companies of including micro enterprises, SMEs, and sectors most exposed with a focus on food, manufacturing and internationally traded services including exporters and importers.
“This is in addition to a range of other supports for businesses to help them through the pandemic. The July Jobs Initiative, which will be announced in the coming weeks, will help to bolster our economy and get people back to work as quickly as possible. It will enhance and add to the existing measures totalling €12 billion in supports for Covid-19 impacted businesses already announced. For example, this week Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced that 183 retailers have been approved for €6.5 million in funding as part of the Online Retail Scheme, which is targeted at online retailers to strengthen their online offering and enable them to reach a wider customer base.
“Other measures include the Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), liquidity supports such as 0% finance for 6 months from MicroFinance Ireland, rates waivers from local authorities and the warehousing of tax liabili-ties of SMEs by Revenue.
“The Restart Grant is being rolled out through the Local Authorities across the country so Limerick City & County Council has a crucial role here.
“Impacted firms that are in rateable premises can apply to Limerick City & County Council for grant support of between €2,000 and a maximum of €10,000 equivalent to their rates bill of 2019.
“The application form for the Restart Grant is available on the Council’s website. I encourage all micro and small business owners in Limerick to take a look at the website and apply for the grant to help them get back on their feet after COVID-19.”