Earlier this month I participated in the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, together with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to hear from representatives from over 300 business, farming, civil society and other groups from all over Ireland, North and South. This was a unique event hosted by the Government to listen to the concerns of groups from every sector of society and the economy about the impact of Brexit. Many more such events will be rolled out for specific sectors and regions over the coming months, which as Minister for European Affairs, I look forward to taking part in. These events form an important part of our ongoing consultations to ensure that Ireland’s interests will be protected when EU negotiations with the UK begin earlier next year.
Blarney along with other key towns and villages across County Cork are set to benefit from funding under the €10m Town and Village Renewal Scheme. In total, 172 towns and villages across the country are set to benefit from €10 million in funding under the 2016 Town and Village Renewal Scheme. I am delighted that under the scheme €47,500 in funding has been allocated to Blarney for the development of an interactive tourism sculpture to commemorate the McCarthy Chieftain. It is important that we preserve our heritage and cultural identify through these iconic town monuments, which will also help to draw more visitors and overseas tourists to Blarney town and castle. Under Budget 2017, €12 million will be made available to towns and villages in County Cork and across the country. The funding awarded to towns and villages is being used for a wide variety of projects, identified by Cork County Council, in conjunction with local community groups and businesses. These include improving playgrounds and footpaths, tourism amenities, public art pieces and a wide range of works to improve the streetscape and public realm of towns and villages and to make them more attractive and more sustainable places in which to live and work.
More jobs for Cork and nationally. Unemployment in Ireland is continuing to fall and is now down to 7.7%, the lowest it’s been since 2008, which is very encouraging. Importantly, every region of the country has seen jobs growth in the past year, with Cork continuing to power ahead. In the last number of weeks we’ve seen another series of significant new job announcements for Cork, with more than 1,000 new jobs in total being created by companies in a diverse range of sectors, from technology to healthcare.
Good news for sports clubs in last month’s Budget. A new round of the Sports Capital Programme will open in 2017, where clubs can apply for grants to for the development of new or upgraded facilities. Details of the new programme will be announced by the Ministers at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in due course.