MORE than €3.5 million in Government funding has been allocated to redevelop a vacant building at the Kilrush Marina as a Maritime Training Centre and research base for the offshore renewable energy sector.

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey said that €3,536,919 from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) would be augmented by more than €700,000 from Clare County Council to support job creation and economic development in West Clare.

“It is envisaged that the training centre will provide a range of specialist mandatory maritime training courses, creating 28 jobs and catering for 1,200 trainees each year. 

“While this will bring an immediate and tangible boost to the local economy, the development of a training and research base for the offshore renewable energy sector will position Kilrush as a major player in an industry that has the potential to deliver major socio-economic benefit to rural Clare and the western seaboard. 

“Due to its unique location in a Heritage Town, it is both a rural development project and a town centre regeneration initiative. This dual designation was a significant help in my efforts to secure RRDF funding for the project,” Deputy Carey explained.

“An economic impact report, submitted with the RRDF application, envisages a €3.2 million annual benefit to the Kilrush area but this could be significantly increased by earnings from the offshore energy sector.

“This is underlined in a major study commissioned by the Shannon Foynes Port Authority which concludes that the Shannon Estuary is on course to become an international floating offshore wind energy hub.

It also found that the Shannon Estuary is best placed in Ireland and Europe to develop the Atlantic floating offshore wind industry to unwind dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports and accelerate the expansion of renewables.

“It was originally envisaged that a Maritime Enterprise Zone, incorporating a training centre, would be based at the former Cahercon Convent in Kildysart and initial funding of €1.8 million was allocated to Clare County Council for this project.

“However when it was established that renovation costs would be several times the initial estimates, it was decided that the Cahercon proposal was no longer viable. 

“Rather than abandon the project, officials from Clare County Council’s economic development unit, sought an alternative location in Kilrush and this has now come to fruition. 

“This is a major boost for West Clare. I want to pay tribute to Clare County Council official Brian McCarthy who I engaged with extensively over the last 15 months. I also worked closely with Cllr Gabriel Keating and there was widespread political support from all the elected members of the Kilrush Municipal District as well. 

“I’m absolutely delighted that the significant funding awarded by my Fine Gael colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys will ensure that this vital scheme moves forward”. Deputy Carey concluded