Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Questions (436)

Dara Calleary


436. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the review of the CLÁR programme. [22892/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme is an important part of the Action Plan for Rural Development and the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 Rural Regeneration Programme. CLÁR provides funding for small capital projects in rural areas which have suffered high levels of population decline.

The programme was first launched in October 2001 and the areas originally selected for inclusion in CLÁR were those which suffered the greatest population decline from 1926 to 1996. The Cooley Peninsula was also included on the basis of the serious difficulties caused in that area by Foot and Mouth disease. The average population loss in the original CLÁR regions over the period 1926 to 1996 was 50%.

In 2006, an analysis of the 2002 Census data was carried out by the NIRSA Institute at Maynooth University and the programme was extended to include areas with an average population loss of 35% between 1926 and 2002.

The CLÁR programme was closed for new applications in 2010. However, I re-launched the programme in the second half of 2016, using as a base-line the areas identified in the work carried out by NIRSA. Over 1,200 projects have been approved for funding of more than €25 million under CLÁR since I re-launched the programme in 2016.

I have initiated a review of the CLÁR programme which will examine CLÁR areas by reference to the 2016 Census of Population data. It will also consider whether there are any other factors that should be taken into account in designating areas for eligibility under CLÁR in the future.

The review process began in November last with a targeted consultation meeting with a number of experts recognised for their background in rural development issues. Following on from this, my officials have been in contact with NIRSA with regard to carrying out a detailed analysis of the most recent Census data to further inform the review process.

I envisage that a wider stakeholder consultation will also take place before the review is completed. Once completed, the review will help to inform the design of future CLÁR programmes.