One year on – new Department delivering on Government’s commitment to supporting rural and community development – Minister Ring

Friday, 17 August 2018

Michael Ring T.D., the Minister for Rural and Community Development, has outlined the significant progress which has already been made in the first year of the Department of Rural and Community Development, with communities throughout Ireland benefiting from the new Department’s support.

The Minister was speaking on the occasion of the publication of the Department’s first annual report – which can be found on the Department’s website

Minister Ring said: “The mission of my Department is to promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland. Working with my colleague, Minister of State Sean Kyne, we believe that one year after its creation by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., the Department of Rural and Community Development is playing a vitally important role in the regeneration of rural Ireland and communities throughout the country and the significance of this role will only increase into the future.

“A landmark achievement during the first year of the new Department of Rural and Community Development has been the creation of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, under Project Ireland 2040, which will see the Government invest €1 billion of additional funding into the revitalisation of rural communities through my Department over the next ten years.

“This unprecedented fund is up and running and provides potential supports of €500,000 and over to collaborative projects in rural communities. In addition to the €1 billion Government contribution, the fund will leverage further investment funding from the public, private and community sectors by way of co-funding contributions. I worked closely with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe to help secure this fund which will breathe new life into rural communities throughout the country over the next ten years.

“During the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time visiting communities throughout the country. These visits have provided invaluable insights into what is working well in the ways in which we support rural Ireland and our communities as well as seeing where things can be improved in the future. These learnings will help inform my Department’s future work. I have a strong sense that the funding schemes which I have approved are helping to improve people’s quality of life throughout Ireland and I am excited by the prospect of how we can improve and develop these programmes further.

“In total, during its first year my Department provided over €243 million of funding to strengthen and build rural economies and communities. This money is having visible positive impacts on people’s lives.

  • “The Town and Village Renewal Schemeand the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme have supported wonderful and exciting developments in communities throughout the country. By supporting these projects we are helping to exploit the potential of our towns and villages and of our wonderful natural environment.
  • The re-introduction of the Local Improvement Schemeand the CLÁR programme have proved extremely popular because they have had a direct and positive impact on the lives of many rural inhabitants.
  • The last year has seen an exponential increase in approvals for LEADERproject funding, from only 257 in August 2017 to over 1,200 now.
  • The Seniors Alert Scheme, has seen a record number of new participants in the last year, with almost 20,000 new participants approved to the scheme, and continues to help provide security and peace of mind to older people in their homes.
  • I was delighted recently to announce the introduction of the MyOpen Library initiative which will see many of our libraries open from 8am to 10pm 365 days a year.
  • The €190 million which I recently announced over the next five years through SICAPwill help people in disadvantaged communities to get the supports they need to make progress in their lives.

“Our communities still face many challenges which the Government is responding to across a variety of Departments. I have used my seat at the Cabinet table to ensure a strong voice for these communities when it comes to Government decisions.

Rural Ireland is making a comeback, having suffered significantly during the downturn. Job creation is playing a big part in helping to turn things around.  Last year, 84% of new jobs created were taken up by people living outside Dublin. This means more people living in their communities, supporting local businesses and sending their children to local schools.

“My Department supports rural initiatives which help generate employment as well as providing valuable local amenities. The new floating boardwalk over Acres Lake in Drumshambo, County Leitrim, which was built by Waterways Ireland and funded by my Department, has had a transformative effect on the local economy. Over 80,000 people visited the boardwalk over the last year, providing a huge boost to the town and hinterland in the process. This is but one example of a positive change where funding by my Department has made a real difference.

“The Department has been to the fore in supporting digital hubs such as the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen from which over 35 local businesses operate.

“These initiatives have not only provided funding and support to communities, throughout Ireland, they have sent a strong message to rural communities that this Government supports and values our communities and will provide the investment needed to ensure that they develop and progress in the years to come. I look forward to continuing this good work into the future.”