Labour’s Harry Barrett has hit out at the failure of the Government to provide a €2 million grant aid package promised to the county for ocean energy.
According to Mr Barrett Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan outlined that in 2008 the ocean energy strategy would include €2 million to develop a grid-connected wave energy test site in north Mayo. However, a year after a €26 million ocean energy programme was unveiled by Minister Ryan, only a fraction of the funding has been released.
Mr Barrett asked: “When will this promised investment happen in the county? We have an Institute of Technology in Castlebar that could do with the investment and is ideally placed to head up a centre of research. We have the business brains and empty business parks in Castlebar and Ballina to manufacture the technology, and we have an educated workforce. In a downturn that is seeing the ranks of the unemployed swell by 74 per cent in Mayo, what are we waiting for?
“A test site for this technology was identified in north Mayo, €2 million was granted to begin the project and nothing has been done since. This is a disgrace. Ireland, and Mayo in particular, could be to ocean energy what Finland has been to mobile phones. However, the delay in funding this plan is allowing other countries to push ahead with the technology unless we wake -up.”
The €26 million, three-year, ocean energy programme was announced on January 15 2008 by Minister Ryan, who stated that he wanted Ireland to become a “world leader” in wave technology. Also, he included €2 million in grants in 2008 under the ocean energy fund to assist developers in making their devices commercial.
Applications for the grant-aid scheme from industry were only advertised by the Department in November and no money was paid out last year, said Mr Barrett.
He continued: “Not only will this grant-aid now be lost, but private investment opportunities for matching funding could be put at risk if our competitors think that we are not serious about this technology. It is crucial that elected representatives, Mayo County Council, and the Western Development Commission drive this project. They should also be asked to produce local stimulus plans. Mayo needs to get back to producing again and for this we need leadership that will access such funding quickly and efficiently. The Government has failed Mayo in boom times, so it is up to leaders within the county and the people working with them to kick-start the local economy again.”