The Action Plan for Rural Development –Realising our Rural Potential –developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DAHRRGA) was launched yesterday (23.01.17) in Ballymahon, Co. Longford as was mentioned in our last post.
The Action Plan contains 274 actions which are to be completed over the next three years and uses the Action Plan for Jobs as a model with responsibility for the delivery of each action is assigned to a government department or other body. Each action has a clear timeline.
There is an emphasis on the positive assets of rural Ireland and on ‘changing the narrative towards the contribution made to our economy and society by rural areas, rather than a focus on rural decline’.
It is recognised that rural Ireland is not a homogenous place and that different areas face different challenges. There is no clear definition of rural Ireland but it seems to use that defined in the CEDRA (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas ) “all areas located beyond the administrative boundaries of the five largest cities”.
Building on Policy
The Action Plan builds on the CEDRA report and the Charter for Rural Ireland and contains a number of actions which build on these. For example, a review of the implementation of the CEDRA report is one action, while the REDZ are also part of the Action Plan.
The Action Plan outlines the population and other changes which have been taking place in rural Ireland and briefly examines the challenges and opportunities faced by rural areas. One of the key challenges noted is BREXIT and the Western Development Commission is committed to an action (along with DAHRRGA) to examine the impact of BREXIT on rural areas and on border areas in particular.
Action Plan Themes
As mentioned in our previous post there are five thematic pillars, each of which has a series of objectives and actions. Each of the five are further broken down into more specific themes as follows:
Pillar 1: Supporting Sustainable Communities
- Making Rural Ireland a better place to live (Actions 1-19)
- Enhancing Local Services (Actions 20-36)
- Empowering Local Communities (Actions 37-46)
- Building Better Communities (Actions 47-67)
Pillar 2: Supporting Enterprise and Employment
- Growing and Attracting Enterprise (Actions 68-104)
- Supporting Sectoral Growth (this covers the Agri-food Sector, Renewable energy and International Financial Services -Actions 105-120)
- Skills and Innovation (Actions 121-134)
- Supporting Rural Job Seekers and Protecting Incomes (Actions 135-151)
Pillar 3: Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential
- Support targeted Rural Tourism Initiatives (Actions 152-166)
- Develop and Promote Activity Tourism (Actions 167-185)
- Develop and Support our Natural and Built Heritage (Actions 186-202)
Pillar 4: Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities
- Increase access to the arts in rural communities (Actions 203-209)
- Enhance Culture and Creativity in Rural Ireland (Actions 210-222)
- Promote the Irish language as a key resource (Actions 223-231)
Pillar 5: Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Broadband and Mobile Phone Access (Actions 232-247)
- Rural Transport (Actions 248-263)
- Flood Relief Measures (Actions 264-276)
While there are more than 270 actions the key actions for the Plan (as highlighted by DAHRRGA )are listed here:
- 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.
Co-ordination and monitoring
One of the important outcomes of the Action Plan should be a more integrated approach to rural issues across government departments and agencies.
The implementation of the Action Plan will be overseen by a Monitoring Committee which will include representatives of relevant government departments and key rural stakeholder interests. The Committee will be supported by DAHRRGA.
Reports will be submitted every six months to a cabinet committee on Regional and Rural Affairs which is chaired by the Taoiseach and the progress reports on the delivery of the actions will be published.
The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphries, TD has appointed Pat Spillane as an Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Development who will assist the Monitoring Committee in identifying the impacts of the Plan on Rural Ireland and encourage businesses, communities, sporting organisations and others to engage with the Plan. Mr Spillane previously acted as Chair of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA). He will also be a member of the Monitoring Committee which will oversee the implementation on the Action Plan.
While the majority of the actions are already part of government policy including them in the Action Plan means that their progress will be regularly monitored by Monitoring Committee which should ensure continued focus.
You can read the full Action Plan here.
There is a short video also available.