The Mission Statement of my Department, as set out in its Statement of Strategy published at the beginning of 2018, is: “To promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland."
The Department of Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to facilitate the achievement of this mission through:
- creating conditions to support increased economic opportunities and local employment in all areas of the country
- delivering schemes and programmes that support the revitalisation of towns and villages
- improving access to services and social networks that ensure a high quality of life
- enabling communities disadvantaged by location or social issues to reach their full potential
- supporting communities to have a voice to shape their own future
The establishment of my Department was an important step in strengthening Government support for communities. Project Ireland 2040 has built further on that support. It recognises the economic and social importance of rural Ireland and it also recognises the critical role of our communities in ensuring a good quality of life for all.
Strengthening rural economies and our communities is one of the core objectives of Project Ireland 2040, and the provision of €1 billion through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund ensures that the funding is there to deliver on that objective in the coming years. The aim of this fund is to support ambitious projects that can drive the economic and social development of rural towns, villages and their surrounding areas. The first call to the Fund saw €86 million approved for 84 projects across the country and the second call is currently open to applications.
In addition to the Fund and other schemes and programmes being delivered, my Department is also working with our colleagues across Government to drive the rural and community agenda and to deliver policies and initiatives that consider the needs of all communities, regardless of location or demographics.
Last week, I published Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise and a five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sectors in Ireland is currently at an advanced stage of development. The Department is also in the process of developing a national strategy on volunteering, in consultation with all stakeholders.
The current Action Plan for Rural Development, a comprehensive cross-Government plan to support economic and social development in Ireland’s rural areas, runs to the end of 2019. A key deliverable for my Department during 2019 will be the development of a rural development policy to follow on from the Action Plan.
I am confident that the work of my Department is having a significant impact on communities and delivering on our mission statement. I am determined that this will continue to be the case and that available funding continues to deliver benefits for all of our communities.