The Deputy will be aware that one of the key objectives of the establishment of my Department in June 2002 was the Government's recognition of the need to address the issues of regional and social balance in a more effective way and the achievement of a more co-ordinated engagement by the State with communities around the country.
In the western region, the counties of Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo, the Western Development Commission manages the western investment fund. In support of its brief to promote economic and social development, it has funded 18 community-based projects amounting to €1.4 million.
In Gaeltacht areas and off-shore islands the national development plan funds the improvement of infrastructure which benefits the entire community in these regions.
In addition to the national development plan investments, I also introduced, in October 2001, the CLÁR programme for disadvantaged rural areas. An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to continue the CLÁR programme, ensuring annual funding, and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. Last month I announced the revision of the CLÁR areas.
Although the provision for the CLÁR programme is reduced from the 2002 allocation, I expect that I will be able to complete a comprehensive work programme in 2003. CLÁR funds act as a lever to elicit funds from other sources. The 2003 CLÁR allocation will be sufficient to continue this leverage and so sustain an effective programme.
The rural development fund is available to finance research, evaluations and pilot actions to provide information and advice to policy makers.