I am acutely aware of the challenges arising from Brexit for rural Ireland and for the Border area in particular. Last November, I hosted a productive public forum on Brexit in Monaghan which was attended by a range of interests from the Border region. I also hosted a sectoral dialogue on Brexit in Cavan on 6 February which was attended by over 100 stakeholders from across the arts, culture, film, heritage, Irish language, regional and rural affairs sectors.
This sectoral dialogue meeting focused on the impacts of Brexit on the sectors served by my Department, with particular attention being given to the impact on rural and Border communities. This event was part of the ongoing engagement with civil society initiated through the series of all-island civic dialogues hosted by the Taoiseach.
The actions set out in Realising our Rural Potential - the Government's Action Plant for Rural Development, which was launched in January - will also assist in supporting rural communities, including those in Border areas, to meet the challenges posed by Brexit and to position themselves to avail of the opportunities which may arise. The action plan contains over 270 actions to be delivered by a range of Government Departments, State agencies and other bodies and sets out to support sustainable communities, support enterprise and employment, maximise our rural and recreation potential, foster culture and creativity and improve rural connectivity.
The plan sets out a number of actions which will address the effects of Brexit in particular. For example, specific research will be commissioned on the impact of Brexit on rural areas, and particularly rural areas in the Border region. InterTradeIreland will fund the development of a programme of initiatives to increase the awareness and capacity of SMEs to deal with the practical consequences of Brexit for cross-Border trade.
I am confident my Department’s preparations for Brexit are comprehensive and will assist in ensuring that rural communities and businesses are equipped as best as they can be to deal with the issues which will arise.