The White Paper on Rural Development published in 1999, sets out a vision and a framework for the development of rural communities and marks a new approach and commitment by Government to rural development. The overall strategy decided by Government provides for balanced regional development to ensure that the benefits of economic progress are distributed throughout rural areas investment in services and infrastructure, sustainable economic development, human resources development and a determined focus on poverty and social exclusion.
The national development plan is the vehicle for delivering the commitments in the White Paper. There is a specific chapter on rural development with a commitment to public investment of €8.5 billion over the period 2000-2006 in actions which directly impact on rural areas. These range from payments to farmers on, for example headage and REPS, to rural infrastructure, capital investment in the food sector and rural enterprises. Many of the other investments in the plan will also have indirect benefits for rural communities such as employment development, better roads and transport services, new housing and improved health services.