Dara Murphy reports…

Funding opportunities for local groups and Town Twinning under EU programme The European Union has always been first and foremost about bringing the peoples of Europe closer together. I’ve always believed that by working together, we can make our small corner of the world more prosperous and secure, for the benefit of all its people. Civic participation and the development of relationships between communities in different parts of Europe are central to this. That is why it’s important that community groups know about and have the opportunity to take advantage of EU funding such as the Europe for Citizens Programme, which is jointly funded by the EU and my Department. Under the Europe for Citizens Programme, funding is available to a whole host of organisations, from voluntary and community groups to sports bodies, town twinning committees and many others. In Ireland, The Wheel, the umbrella body for NGOs, administers the programme. There is funding available for civil society projects, for town twinning, for networks of towns and for remembrance of historic events. I think there’s a real opportunity for towns like Blarney, with its great civic and community spirit, to tap into this funding. This could be by looking at twinning opportunities with other historic towns and cities in Europe that are also tourist hubs, or by local youth and sports groups looking to build links with similar groups in other European countries. There will be an information session on town twinning and funding opportunities under the Europe for Citizens Programme in City Hall on Wednesday 11th May from 9.30-11.30 am. I would encourage all local groups interested in availing of this funding to check it out. Further details are available at www.europeforcitizens.ie

Supporting small local businesses to grow and create more jobs has been a big part of the Government’s drive to put our country back to work. It was great to see the figures in early April that showed that unemployment is continuing to fall (now at 8.6%), and for young people in particular. The Local Enterprise Offices throughout the country, such as the two nearest in Cork City and Mallow, are now the main contact point for small businesses looking to access government supports to grow. There are over 80 different Government supports that Irish small businesses and start-ups can avail of. Further details are available at www.localenterprise.ie www.supportingsmes.ie In early April I took part in an event in Brussels hosted by the European People’s Party (EPP) about our opportunities in Europe to boost job creation and growth in today’s changed global economy. Last year I was elected as a Vice President of the party, Europe’s largest political family, which Fine Gael was a founding member of. At the event, I joined Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and a small panel of other contributors, where I focused on the huge potential for our small businesses if we can take advantage of opportunities like agreeing a EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and creating a real digital single market in Europe. New export and growth opportunities for our small businesses, means more jobs at home, boosting our prosperity in this small corner of the world.

Significant Garda progress in tackling burglaries and other crimes Crime statistics from the CSO for the last quarter of 2015 have shown a reduction in burglaries and property crime, down 26.2% from the same period the previous year. There has been a reduction in eight out of the fourteen recorded crime categories, with important reductions in some of the most serious crimes. This very welcome reduction in burglary and other crimes is very encouraging, and shows that the strategy put in place by Gardaí to tackle this scourge, is now bearing fruit. New legislation introduced to tackle repeat burglary offenders, and significant investment by the Government in new Garda recruitment and additional policing resources should help to make further progress in significantly reducing crime.