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Over €32million in investment grants announced for regenerative tourism projects in Midlands

  • 22 projects to receive €27.1million investment grant-aid in first round of investment approval.
  • Bord na Móna to develop up to 79 km of trails across the wider region, subject to planning consents and funding approval.
  • 85 tourism businesses will participate in a €5.5million Digital Transformation Programme.
  • Funding scheme for Private and Community SMEs to close for expressions of interest on 30th June 2024.

Fáilte Ireland has announced the first round of approved investment grants for projects under the EU Just Transition Fund which are being delivered as part of its Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme 2023-2026, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the EU.

22 projects across the wider Midlands region have been approved for €27.1million investment under the scheme which include walking and cycling trails on former industrial peatlands, and investment in Local Authority and State Agency tourism and visitor experience projects. Further projects that are still in the evaluation pipeline are expected to be announced in the coming weeks and months. Projects span three development categories, including feasibility and masterplans; product design and planning; and delivery and construction.

Fáilte Ireland is also announcing the inclusion of up to 85 tourism enterprises in its EU Just Transition Digital Transformation Programme which is valued at up to €5.5million. A funding scheme for Private and Community SMEs to provide new and enhanced visitor experiences and low-carbon tourist accommodation remains open for expressions of interest until 30th June 2024, and announcements will be made on these awards later in the year.

Athlone Castle Athlone Co Westmeath Web Size 1

Following the announcement of the first projects, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD, said:
“I am pleased to see the first announcement of investment in projects by Fáilte Ireland under the EU Just Transition Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme. These projects mark the first steps in the regenerative tourism development journey in the Midlands, and we are pleased to work with our colleagues in the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to deliver on government climate action goals through the EU Just Transition Fund. The projects funded support our move as a nation towards a low-carbon economy, in line with the Programme for Government commitment for the development of a Sustainable Tourism Policy, which will support sustainable economic development and job creation. We’re already seeing a significant impact in the Midlands as all counties within the region have been represented across these approved investments in projects, with more to come.”

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD said: “Today marks a significant milestone in the green transition as Fáilte Ireland announces the first projects under the EU Just Transition Fund Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme targeted at the Midlands Region. This initiative, co-funded by the Government and the European Union not only provides new employment and economic opportunities for communities and businesses in the Midlands but also helps protect biodiversity, supporting a greener, more sustainable, and low-carbon future. I look forward to the delivery of these projects and to their positive impact on the Midlands Region.”

Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland Barbara Nolan added:
“Ireland can be at the forefront of the EU’s efforts to diversify its economy towards greener and more progressive industries, helping to achieve the EU’s Green Deal goals. One of the objectives of the EU’s Just Transition Fund is to support Ireland’s Midlands to further develop the potential of the local economy. Investing in sustainable tourism will not only generate local jobs but is also a step further in positioning the Midlands as an attractive tourist destination in the heart of Ireland.”

CEO of Fáilte Ireland, Paul Kelly said:
“Today, we are pleased to announce our initial investment grants for projects under our Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking scheme, which is just the beginning of our EU Just Transition journey for Ireland’s Midlands.
These transformative projects, spanning the entire region, will create more reasons for domestic and international tourists to visit Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East, generating new opportunities for employment, empowering local businesses, and enhancing local communities, while strengthening the appeal of the Midlands as a tourist destination for generations to come. With further investment in projects to be announced over the coming months, this is a very exciting time for the Midlands.
We look forward to further collaboration with local tourism businesses and communities, the Eastern and Midland Regional Authority (EMRA), Bord na Móna, Local Authorities, and our strategic partners including the Office of Public Works, the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Waterways Ireland, and Coillte to deliver these projects and more under this scheme across the next two years.”

Acting Director of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA) Clare Bannon said:
“EMRA, as the Managing Authority of the EU Just Transition Fund programme, welcomes the announcement of this group of projects that underline the significant opportunities arising from investment in tourism for bolstering placemaking through enhanced amenities and capacity building. Tourism plays a pivotal role in diversifying income streams and enhancing employment prospects that are intricately tied to our local assets. By investing in tourism, we not only open doors to increased recreational activities but also contribute to the preservation of environmental quality, fostering sustainable growth and prosperity for our community.”

Trail Development Scheme

As a beneficiary of the Trail Development element of the Scheme, Bord na Móna has been awarded €3.6million towards the creation of up to 79km* of new walking and cycling trails, across suitable parts of the Bord na Móna landbank, including in the following areas of the Midlands region:

  • Longford – between Lanesborough and Cloondara,
  • Westmeath – between Athlone and Ballinahown,
  • Offaly East – between Grand Canal Greenway and Mount Lucas
  • Offaly West – around Clonmacnoise, Ballinahown and Lough Boora

The trail development network focuses on developing and repurposing former industrial peatlands to support a network of universally accessible cyclable and walkable trails that will be to firmly establish the Midlands as a compelling destination for outdoor activities, supporting the creation of new jobs in ancillary and related activities, connecting back into towns and villages. Following the successful completion of the planning process for these trails, Bord na Móna will apply for funding for their construction.

Welcoming the announcement, Head of Land & Habitats at Bord na Móna, Ger Breen said:
“Bord na Móna is pleased to be a beneficiary of Fáilte Ireland’s Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme. The sites selected for these trails will deliver benefits for the wider community through developing new trails across the Bord na Móna landbank as well as connecting up existing trails as part of the trail development network. This will give the local community as well as visitors better connectivity between the trails and the surrounding towns, villages, visitor experiences and future developments. We look forward to working with our partners in Fáilte Ireland, and the Local Authorities in Offaly, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath and Tipperary in delivering these trails.”

Rock of Dunamase Co Laois Web Size 1

Local Authority and State Agency Schemes

Working closely with the 8 Local Authorities and state agencies including the OPW, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Waterways Ireland and Coillte, Fáilte Ireland has approved investment for €23.5million to deliver improved tourism infrastructure, facilities and visitor experiences, including those that can be leveraged by the private and community sectors.

The projects focus on the areas of Visitor Experience Improvement, Digital Transformation, Digital User Experience, Accessibility and Sustainability and Regenerative Tourism.

The first projects approved for investment under this Scheme across Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath are below, with further projects expected to be announced in the coming weeks:

Project and LocationProject DescriptionLead OrganisationFunding Amount
Laois: Rock of DunamaseDelivery of enhancements to the visitor experience at the Rock of Dunamase thorough delivery of carpark, facilities, and interpretationLaois County Council€1,796,592
Laois: Emo CourtOptions study for the development of Emo Court and EstateOffice of Public Works€187,500
Westmeath: Athlone CastleDelivery of interpretation, facilities, and visitor journey enhancements throughout Athlone CastleWestmeath County Council€3,226,770
Westmeath: Athlone Town CentreDetailed design and planning of Boardwalk and Outdoor Urban Swimming Pool in Athlone Town CentreWestmeath County Council€561,803
Westmeath: Belvedere House, Gardens and ParkVisitor experience masterplan development for Belvedere House, Gardens and ParkWestmeath County Council€187,500
Longford, Westmeath, and Kildare: Royal Canal GreenwayDelivery of the Royal Canal Greenway visitor experience development, including, Greenway animation and interpretationWaterways Ireland€487,500
Longford: Clondra to Termonbarry cycleway schemeFeasibility to assess linking Clondra and Termonbarry through an off-road cyclepathLongford County Council€84,000
Longford: Clondra Village EnhancementsDelivery of enhancements to the public realm and outdoor visitor facilities in Clondra village and provide better connection with neighbouring Termonbarry through safer cycling and walking routes.Longford County Council€370,000
Longford: Lanesborough AmphitheatreDetailed design and planning for the development of Lanesborough AmphitheatreLongford County Council€150,000
Longford: Corlea Iron Age Roadway & Visitor CentreOptions study to improve the visitor experience at Corlea Visitor Centre including conservation and presentation options for the Iron Age RoadwayOffice of Public Works€262,500
Offaly: Shannonbridge Plaza and Shannon Callows Reserve WalkwayDetailed design and planning for a central plaza and walkwayOffaly County Council€218,275
Offaly: Shannonbridge MarinaExpansion of the capacity of the marina at Shannonbridge.Waterways Ireland€150,000
Offaly: Birr Destination Town PlusDelivery of enhanced paving at William Street improving the linkages to the Castle Demesne and town centreOffaly County Council€188,183
Offaly: ClonmacnoiseRedevelopment of the visitor centre at Clonmacnoise, including refurbishment and extension of buildings to enhance the experience for visitorsOffice of Public Works€7,800,000
Local Authority and State Agency Schemes across the 4 Midlands counties of Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath

Private and Community SME Scheme

The Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme also provides a significant fund of up to €17million for projects that will be delivered by private and community SMEs and micro enterprises operating within the EU Just Transition Territory**.
Over €5million is being announced today as part of the Digital Transformation programme element of the scheme which will be shared by up to 85 tourism enterprises spread across all eight counties in the EU Just Transition Territory. This funding will enable these enterprises to participate in a two-year programme which will transform their digital presence and digital capabilities.
The closing date for Expressions of Interest for the Private and Community SME element of this scheme is Sunday 30th June 2024 at 12 noon. Funding for this scheme is limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. A dedicated Tourism Activator, a new role that has been developed and funded as part of this EU Just Transition scheme, is in place in each county to support applicants to develop their applications. Applicants can find more information and complete an Expression of Interest at

Today’s announcement adds to other schemes already funded under Fáilte Ireland’s EU Just Transition Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme, including the recently launched Tourism Learning Network Programme. This programme provides a broad range of capability building, peer networking and shared learning opportunities, both in person and online, including real life best practice case studies from Ireland and internationally, to a mix of 46 businesses across the region, some of whom are new to tourism. Over 60 business owners and their staff from these micro enterprises, as part of the programme’s first intake, are actively engaged in various learning pillars including: The Business of Tourism; Business for Growth; Access and Inclusion; Sustainability and Regenerative Tourism. There will be a further intake for the Tourism Learning Network Programme later in 2024, with Expressions of Interest re-opening in the Autumn.

*All projects are subject to grant agreement, planning permission and funding availability


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