Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Questions (12)

Pat Deering


12. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to allocate funding in 2019 to a committee (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2995/19]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Rural)

One of the best ways to help rural Ireland is to go to the heart of community, and Tidy Towns organisations are at the heart of communities throughout the country. What plans does the Minister have to allocate funding for Tidy Towns committees in 2019?

I will answer the question on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ring, because he has been answering questions all morning.

The Tidy Towns competition was originally launched by Bord Fáilte more than 60 years ago. Since its inception, the competition has grown from 52 entrants in 1958 to 883 entrants in 2018. The continued success of the competition is due to the countless hours of effort from Tidy Towns committees the length and breadth of the country. As Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring was delighted to be in a position to announce grant funding to Tidy Towns committees of €1.4 million for each of the years 2017 and 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of the competition. This funding has allowed the committees to prepare better for the annual competition through the purchase or upgrade of small equipment and other materials.

Under the 2017 allocation, 906 Tidy Towns committees received grant funding of between €1,000 and €4,000, depending on the size of their town or village, while under the 2018 allocation, 722 Tidy Towns committees have received similar levels of funding to date, with a number of applications still to be processed. Later this year, the Minister will consider whether he will be in a position to allocate funding to the Tidy Towns committees through this funding stream in 2019. It should be noted, however, that Tidy Towns committees can apply, as community groups, for funding to other schemes within his Department, such as the community enhancement programme, which is administered through the local community development committees, LCDCs. In 2018, 158 applications were approved for funding of €536,816 to Tidy Towns committees under the community enhancement programme.

Funding last year and in the previous couple of years was welcome to mark the 60th anniversary of the Tidy Towns competition. I come from a village, Rathvilly in Carlow, which has the honour of winning the Tidy Towns competition on three occasions in the early years - 1961, 1963 and 1968. Considerable effort has been made in recent years in my community, as in every other community, to try to return to former glory. It is important that communities are made aware of any potential funding early in the year in order that they can plan and develop whatever projects they may have. While funding is always welcome, if it is received mid-summer, it is too late because much work will have been done to get ready for the visit of the judges in June, July or August.

It has been indicated that funding may be made available. When exactly does the Minister of State expect that to happen, given that plans need to be put in place at this stage of the year in order that communities can have a fair idea of what to expect later in the year?

The Deputy is quite right that it is important for communities to have the information at the start of the year or as early as possible in order that they can plan. The Minister is discussing the matter with his officials and he will make his decision as soon as possible in the coming months.

While on the subject, it is important to acknowledge that SuperValu has been involved in the competition for many years and it provides much support and cohesion to communities throughout the country.

I want to congratulate Listowel, even though I do not believe there are any Kerry Deputies here but perhaps there are, on winning the national award, which is a great honour for any town. I was in Abbeyshrule in December presenting the certificates. The pride in the members of every community who arrived on the night for the regional awards was palpable. The local authorities play a great role in that respect also. To answer the question, the Minister will make his decisions as early as possible in the coming months.

I thank the Minister of State for that clarification. I come from a village that won the award on three occasions. Carlow has quite a good history in that regard. Only two years ago the village of Clonegal won the tidiest village national award, which was a great achievement for it. Previously, Leighlinbridge, in County Carlow, also won a substantial award. The clarification is welcome but it is important that the plans are put in place early in the year. Some communities are looking at different ideas including developing community gardens, which is a different initiative. It is important that that can be put in place.

It is important to acknowledge the sponsorship, on which I compliment the Minister, and ensure that sponsorship is continuously available. SuperValu plays a major part not only in sponsorship but in its promotion on national television and media. I compliment everybody in that regard.

I reaffirm the importance of having an early date for the announcement of any potential funding that might be available to ensure that communities can put their plans in place in terms of the extra expenditure that may be available to them.

I want to reassure the Deputy and everybody in the House that the Minister will take on board what he said. He has had discussions already with the Department. The important point is the valuable work being done by the Tidy Towns committees, which is so relevant when we talk about our environment, climate change and keeping communities tidy. The committees do a great deal of work on a voluntary basis picking up rubbish on a Saturday or whenever that has been dumped by people who are selfish. It is important that we recognise the work they do but also that we cite those who do not have any regard for the environment or pride in the areas in which they live. I hope we will see Kilkenny coming back up again-----

I am sorry. I hope we will see Carlow coming back up to the top of the ranks, perhaps after Galway or Mayo.