Written Answers. - Rural Development Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the degree to which he has developed his views on the dispersed rural community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3716/03]

My views on dispersed rural communities are well known to Members of this House. I have spoken many times in relation to the need for a settlement pattern that would allow for the regeneration of rural areas, particularly those which have suffered continuous decline. Government policy on rural development is set out in the White Paper published in August 1999. As a result the Government is committed to ensuring the economic and social well being of rural communities and providing the conditions for a meaningful fulfilling life for all people living in rural areas.

The aim is that there will be vibrant and sustainable communities able to enjoy a standard of living and quality of life which will make them attractive communities in which to live and work and where individuals and families will have a real choice as to where to stay in, leave or move to rural Ireland, whether in farming or otherwise.

Rural communities should also be able to enjoy access to education, training and lifelong learning and an adequate level of social and other services and infrastructures. Their cultural identities, in particular the language, traditions, heritage and sense of community must be valued and retained.

In my statement welcoming the publication of the national spatial strategy last November, I said the strategy sets down clear markers for the way ahead in rural development. The strategy addresses many of my concerns in relation to such issues as rural housing, services and cultural identity.

As further evidence of the Government's commitment, I launched the CLÁR programme for disadvantaged rural areas in October 2001, during my time as Minister of State with responsibility for rural development. Last month, I announced the extension of CLÁR areas arising from the review, based on the 2002 population census, and as promised in An Agreed Programme for Government.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 103.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 105.