Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Questions (522)

Brendan Smith


522. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to extend CLÁR areas; the likely timescale for analysis of areas seeking to be included under the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46650/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.   

The areas originally selected for inclusion in the programme in 2001 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 areas 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 analysis of the Census data was carried out at a District Electoral Division (DED) level and all areas designated as being 'CLÁR' areas are at DED level. 

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 in 2006. 

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.  My officials have been in contact with NIRSA to explore the most appropriate means of reviewing the CLAR areas based on the most recent Census data.

I envisage that a wider stakeholder consultation will also take place as part of the review.  Once completed, the review will help to inform the design of future CLÁR programmes and the areas covered.