On Monday 23rd of January an Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD launched Realising our Rural Potential: The Action Plan for Rural Development. The Action Plan is the first ever whole-of-government strategy aimed at delivering real change for people living and working in rural Ireland. The Action Plan will complement and supplement a number of strategies at national and local level such as Harnessing our Ocean Wealth. In addition, the monitoring system will draw on the review processes of other key initiatives such as the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, Food Wise 2025, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, and others.
Reflecting the cross-Government approach to rural development, also speaking at the launch are Minister of State for Regional Economic Development, Michael Ring TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, and Minister of State for the OPW, Sean Canney TD.
The objective of the Action Plan for Rural Development is to unlock the potential of rural Ireland through a framework of supports at national and local level which will ensure that people who live in rural areas have increased opportunities for employment locally, and access to public services and social networks that support a high quality of life.
The Action Plan will act as an overarching structure for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives right across Government which will benefit rural Ireland. It is the first plan of its kind to take a cohesive and coordinated approach across the whole of Government to the implementation of both economic and social policies that impact on rural communities. The Action Plan was prepared following a consultation process which included engagement with all Government Departments, meetings with key rural representative bodies and a series of regional workshops.
The Plan contains 276 actions across five key pillars, all of which aim to improve both the economic and social fabric of rural Ireland. The five pillars are:
- Supporting Sustainable Communities
- Supporting Enterprise and Employment
- Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential
- Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities
- Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity
Key actions under the Plan include:
- Supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020 by assisting indigenous businesses, investing €50m for collaborative approaches to job creation in the regions, and increasing Foreign Direct Investment in regional areas by up to 40%.
- Implementing a range of initiatives to rejuvenate over 600 rural and regional towns.
- Introducing a new pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in town and village centres.
- Assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development, tackle social exclusion and provide services to people living in remote areas.
- Increasing the number of visitors to rural Ireland by 12% in the next three years through targeted tourism initiatives, including increased promotion of Activity Tourism.
- Accelerating the preparation for the rollout of high-speed broadband and ensuring that all homes and businesses in rural Ireland are connected to broadband as early as possible.
- Increasing capital funding for flood risk schemes up to €80m per annum by 2019 and increasing to €100m per annum by 2021
- Improving job opportunities for young people in rural areas by increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
- Developing an Atlantic Economic Corridor to drive jobs and investment along the Western seaboard and contribute to more balanced regional development.
- Investing over €50 million in sports, recreation and cultural facilities throughout the country, including in rural areas.
- Protecting vital services in rural Ireland by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services and protecting rural schools.
- Introducing a range of measures to boost job creation in the Gaeltacht, including the creation of 1,500 new jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies by 2020 and the development of Innovation Hubs in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltacht regions to support entrepreneurship.
- Combating rural isolation by improving connectivity and enhancing supports for older people, including significant investment in the Senior Alert scheme.
- Building safer communities by providing a more visible, effective and responsive police service in rural areas through the recruitment of 3,200 new Garda members over the next four years to reach a strength of 15,000 members, and by introducing a new community CCTV Grant Aid Scheme.
- Examining the scope for increased investment in regional roads in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021
- Assessing and improving rural transport routes and developing new routes where necessary
- Delivering 18 new primary care centres in rural Ireland by end of 2018
- Investing €435m in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals in rural Ireland, up to 2021, creating up to 5,000 jobs during the construction phase
- Improving societal cohesion and wellbeing in rural communities by supporting cultural and artistic provision and participation.
Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. said:
“The development and revitalisation of rural Ireland is a key priority in the Programme for a Partnership Government. We can do more and do better to drive the creative spirit of rural Ireland for the benefit of everybody, young and old alike. This is the aim of our Action Plan for Rural Development, to unlock both the economic and social potential of rural Ireland. We will ensure that local communities have increased opportunities for jobs, and access to public services and social networks that support a high quality of life.
“I Chair a Cabinet Committee on Rural Ireland, where I will be pushing all Government Ministers to deliver initiatives under their individual portfolios which will have a positive impact on rural Ireland. We want to ensure that no community is left behind as we take on the causes of disadvantage. This Plan will unlock the potential of rural communities nationwide and deliver the best possible results for our people.”
Speaking at the launch Minister Humphreys said:
“I believe passionately in rural communities and as someone who has lived and worked in rural Ireland throughout my life, I have seen, first-hand, the commitment and determination of rural communities to succeed. Through this Action Plan, I want to empower rural communities to realise their full potential. This is the first time that a cross Government plan, with targeted actions, has been produced to positively impact on rural communities. There is no quick fix for the challenges facing rural Ireland. Instead what we need is a co-ordinated and targeted approach to deliver for rural communities.
“There has been significant progress in recent years; we know the fastest jobs growth has been outside Dublin and investment in the regions is increasing. We now want to build on that progress by revitalising our rural towns and villages, boosting visitor numbers to rural areas, encouraging more regional development and providing better services. While it is very important to deliver economic progress, I think it is equally important to encourage cultural activity, which adds hugely to the energy and vitality of rural areas. That is why this Action Plan also focuses on fostering culture and creativity, which will ultimately lead to happier, healthier and more prosperous rural communities.”
Minister Humphreys has also announced the launch of a new website www.ruralireland.ie which will act as a hub for information on services and supports for rural dwellers.
You can read the full Action Plan here: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2017/01/162404-rural-ireland-action-plan-web-2-1.pdf
There is a short video available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGpZ-dnKqTc
Monitoring and Implementation:
The Plan contains over 270 time-bound actions with responsibility for each action assigned to a relevant Department and/or agency. Implementation of the actions in this Plan will be monitored closely and reports will be submitted regularly to the Cabinet Committee on Regional and Rural Affairs, chaired by An Taoiseach. Progress Reports will be published every six months on the delivery of each action, as well as the addition of new actions in response to new challenges and opportunities.
Minister Humphreys has also announced that she has appointed Pat Spillane as an Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Development. Mr Spillane previously acted as Chair of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA). The Ambassador will assist in communicating the messages in the Plan and will work to engage local communities in its delivery. Mr. Spillane will also be a member of the Monitoring Committee which will oversee the implementation on the Action Plan.
Pillar 1: Supporting Sustainable Communities
- Make rural Ireland a better place in which to live and work by revitalising our town and village centres through the implementation of initiatives such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the CLÁR and RAPID Programmes and measures to support people to live in town centres.
- Empower Local Communities, including through the development and support of the Public Participation Network and Local Community Development Committees, to ensure that a diversity of voices is heard and included in local decision-making processes and that communities continue to identify their own needs and solutions.
- Enhance local services in the community through the provision of support for rural GPs, through ongoing development of the primary care sector to deliver better care close to home in communities, through support for the rural post office network to adapt to a changing business environment, and through continued access to schools for children in rural Ireland.
- Build better communities through ongoing investment in the LEADER Programme, and supporting vulnerable rural communities though initiatives such as the Rural Social Scheme, and through a range of measures to improve the security and safety of rural dwellers.
Pillar 2: Supporting Enterprise and Employment
- Grow and attract enterprise and jobs through the roll out implementation of the eight regional Action Plans for Jobs and the development of an Atlantic Economic Corridor to promote balanced regional development.
- Support sectoral growth through the continued development of the agri-food sector through the implementation of FoodWise 2025 and roll out initiatives to develop the renewable energy sector and International Financial Services in rural Ireland.
- Ensure rural communities have the necessary skills to meet the needs of the labour market and to encourage innovation and maximise assets.
- Support rural jobseekers through the Intreo offices and initiatives such as the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, Tús and Community Employment.
- Support farm and fishing incomes through CAP payments, the Rural Development Programme and other Government supports.
Pillar 3: Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential
- Increase tourist numbers to rural Ireland by 12% by 2019.
- Support sustainable jobs through targeted rural tourism initiatives, including through the support of key marketing initiatives such as Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as developing the potential of Ireland’s Lakelands.
- Develop and promote Activity Tourism in rural areas through the development of blueways, greenways and other recreational opportunities.
- Develop and promote our natural and built heritage through investment and development of our Gaeltacht areas, enhanced promotion of our National Parks and Nature Reserves and other natural and built resources.
Pillar 4: Fostering Culture and Creativity in rural communities
- Increase access to the arts and enhance cultural facilities in rural communities.
- Further develop and enhance culture and creativity in rural Ireland through the establishment of culture teams and creativity hubs as part of the Creative Ireland Pprogramme.
- Promote the Irish language as a key resource in Gaeltacht and other rural communities.
Pillar 5: Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Bring high speed broadband to every premises in Ireland through the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and improve mobile phone access in rural areas.
- Improve rural transport links through a review of services, support for our regional airports and investment in rural infrastructure.
- Implement flood relief measures and other land management measures to protect our rural infrastructure.
A press relases on the Action Plan from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is available here: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/press/pressreleases/2017/january/title,105237,en.html