Co-funded by the Exchequer and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the FLAG programme is implemented by 7 regional FLAG groups, with administrative support and animation provided by BIM. Over the duration of the programme from 2014-2020, the FLAG Programme will deliver €12 million in funding to Ireland’s coastal communities.
FLAG Northwest received an extensive range of applications from coastal community groups focusing on marine based tourism projects, maritime themed festivals, fishermen’s harbour development, maritime education and training, seafood and aquaculture based initiatives with a final 22 projects meeting the criteria of the FLAG programme that will deliver an overall investment of €545,000 including grant aid of €315,403.
Speaking at the announcement of the Northwest FLAG projects investment, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring T.D. highlighted the importance of enhancement of coastal communities; “I am delighted to be here today in Mulranny to announce FLAG Northwest support for 22 original, dynamic and creative projects generated by people and communities who are extremely passionate and committed to the future development of their coastal community. The Fisheries Local Action Group programme funded under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund is a vital support to rural Ireland and it’s obvious from the interest in the FLAG Northwest that the approved projects will inspire future generations to see the economic and social benefits of our amazing marine resource and its related maritime industries’
BIM’s CEO, Jim O’Toole added, “It is wonderful to be in beautiful Mulranny on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean for the announcement of FLAG Northwest with whom BIM have worked very closely with the primary aim of enabling members across Mayo and Sligo to tailor their strategy to meet the dedicated needs of the maritime community in this region. The North West is renowned for its seafood, fishing, aquaculture and of course marine tourism industry and activities and today’s announcement by Minister Ring of such a large and varied range of projects serves to highlight the commitment and value of the seafood and wider marine sector to these counties. I would especially like to thank and compliment the board of FLAG Northwest under the chair of Gerry Hassett for their excellent work to date”.
The FLAG Northwest strategy focuses on economic and coastal community development across the North West Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim and aims to maximise co-operation amongst the counties, associated marine organisations while bringing to fruition the ethos of the FLAG strategy.
From the 22 approved FLAG Northwest projects, a number of unique projects have been selected from counties Mayo and Sligo which highlighted a number of the core values of the FLAG Strategy, coastal community development, infrastructure support of fishermen, maritime education in primary schools and marine tourism community festival:
Comhlacht Forbartha Aituil Acla.–Achill Experience
A Community Development Group in Achill which has availed of funding in the last programme to develop part of their existing building into an Aquarium. Achill is a popular Tourist destination and such an all weather Aquarium attraction would showcase Achill’s marine tourism experience while also delivering an enhanced visitor experience especially on a rainy day. Since opening in April 2016, 14,000 visitors went through the doors up to the end of the year and this will be increased in the current season. Under this round of Funding, CFAA have been successful and are now extending the Aquarium by 2000sq ft. The Fish exhibits all include fish and shellfish from the local waters around Achill and the Local Fishermen maintain the stocks especially with rare species many of which are unique to the area and have never been previously seen by the Public. They presently exhibit 3 very rare coloured lobsters.
Purteen Harbour Fishermens Group
A Group of Purteen Fishermen came together to develop facilities in their local harbour. They first availed of funding under the last programme to install a range of Story boards which tells the story of Shark and the Salmon Fishing in Achill. These were very important fisheries in the 1950’s to the early 1980’s which were part of a very strong and vibrant culture and heritage in Achill. The story boards are weather proof and are a very big tourist attraction to the area. This group have again being successful in securing funding to renovate an old Fishing Building to provide Refrigeration and Ice Making Facilities for the Fishing Community in the area. This is much needed infrastructure that will help to add value to the catches of the Fishermen and provide a facility for locally caught fresh fish. It will help to maintain Fishing jobs and add income from sales of fish that might otherwise have very little market opportunities.
St Patricks National School in Ballinful Co Sligo
The only National school in Ireland to teach their 3rd-6th classes sailing, St Patrick’s national School has been training their students in Sailing and Marine awareness over 30 years with the help of parents and local RNLI .The existing Boats are old and now have come to a stage where they were no longer fit for purpose and under the Northwest FLAG support, St Patricks national school have received funding to buy 6 new modern Pico Sail Vessels. The Students are receiving Lifelong skills and maritime sailing training which are accredited by the ISA and 2 students have gone on to making Sailing their Lifelong profession in teaching the skills they learnt at National School. Swimming classes are available at all levels in the school so that when students reach classes 3rd-6th they can become involved in the sailing training. This is an excellent example of a coastal National School that teaches Marine and Environmental awareness where they learn Lifelong skills that has the ability to result in future job creation.
The Chairman of FLAG Northwest, Gerry Hassett, says “FLAG Northwest showcases the diversity, innovation and influence of the marine sector across the coastal counties of Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim. This round of funding for applications received from Mayo and Sligo will have a huge impact on their communities and will create direct and indirect employment in the sector. The sea is a huge natural resource which brings many challenges to coastal communities but it also has a hugely positive influence in terms of innovation, enterprise, fishing, seafood, aquaculture and marine tourism. From the 22 approved projects, we also see many legacies for the future not least of all coastal communities working together to achieve great vision for the future and better local economies.”