Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Questions (66)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

66. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which it is anticipated progress can be made towards providing and extending vital services in rural and urban areas with a view to ensuring the availability of the highest quality of such services at all locations throughout the country, thereby enhancing the quality of life for the persons therein and the attractiveness for job creating investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20396/17]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

My remit specifically covers rural areas. In January this year, I launched Realising our Rural Potential, the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development. The Plan contains over 270 actions to be delivered by a range of Government Departments, State agencies and other bodies to support the economic and social development of rural Ireland. The Action Plan contains measures across a range of policy areas which will help to maintain and revitalise rural communities across the country. A key component of the Plan is to support the creation of jobs throughout the regions to ensure that people who live in rural areas have increased opportunities for employment locally. The Plan aims to deliver 135,000 extra jobs outside of Dublin by 2020.

The Action Plan also sets out a number of actions which will protect and enhance vital services in rural communities. For example, the Plan includes a commitment that no small school will close against the wishes of parents; it also sets out a number of actions in relation to access to healthcare, including an increase in the number of GPs in rural areas.

Our towns and villages are the heart of our rural communities, and it is important that we implement measures to help breath life back into these rural towns and villages. The rejuvenation of towns and villages will be supported under the Action Plan through schemes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the CLÁR Programme, both of which were launched in the last number of weeks.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme will support the rejuvenation of up to 300 rural towns and villages through an investment of €20 million over the next 15 months.   Minister of State Ring announced an allocation of €5 million for the CLÁR Programme this year. Both schemes are open for applications through the Local Authorities.

The actions set out in the Action Plan for Rural Development are the start of an on-going process which will be built on continuously to unlock the potential of rural Ireland and improve the lives of people who live and work in rural communities.