Thursday, 5 December 2019

Questions (10)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

10. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the allocation for the CLÁR scheme in 2020; his plans to change the scheme in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50429/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Rural)

I want to know what the Minister's plans are for his CLÁR scheme 2020.

As the Deputy will be aware, I reopened the CLÁR programme in 2016, following a number of years when the scheme was closed for new applications. More than 1,400 projects have been approved for funding of almost €33 million under the programme since then.

The type of projects that have been supported include safety measures around schools and community facilities, the provision of play areas, supports for emergency first responders, and a measure to provide vehicles to transport people to cancer care and respite centres.

This is much-needed funding for small-scale capital projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of population loss. Although the amount of funding available to individual projects under CLÁR is modest, I know that it makes a huge impact on the rural areas it serves. I have visited many of the projects and I have seen first-hand the difference that these projects make to local communities.

I expect that the CLÁR programme will be opened again for new applications in 2020, and I will make decisions in the new year regarding the measures to be included in the programme.

I will also conduct a review of the programme to take account of the 2016 census data and to consider any factors, other than depopulation, that should be taken into account in designing future CLÁR programmes.

I absolutely concur with the Minister that CLÁR is a source of funding and has a positive impact on schools around the country. St. Mary’s national school in Ballyhaise in County Cavan and Drumcrave national school do not fit into the mapping for CLÁR funding. I understand that about five schools in the county are affected in this way. They feel aggrieved that they are not able to access funds that make a big impact on their playgrounds and safety measures. Many schools use CLÁR for safety features that local authorities do not have the funds for. The local authorities are put to the pin of their collars too. They cannot step in and help these schools that do not fit in to CLÁR funding. Does the Minister have any plans to extend CLÁR funding to appropriate schools such as St. Mary’s national school in Ballyhaise, which is well outside Cavan town, Drumcrave and other schools that do not get it?

I thank the Deputy for her comments. She is right. Under CLÁR I can target some of the schemes to where the need is. I found when I came into office that one of the needs was safety outside schools. Anyone who has children knows that when parents and others bring children to school, they want them to be in a safe environment. I considered that scheme and reintroduced it. It has been very successful.

I am doing a review of the CLÁR programme. I do not want it to focus on depopulation. I want it to be where there is a need and to expand it. My officials recently met experts from the National University of Ireland, NUI, Maynooth to see how we can target it. The Deputy will understand that I have to be careful because there is small funding. I wish I could get more funding because it is one of the better schemes. I would like to be able to fund more schools. Under CLÁR I can see where there is a need and no other Department or local authority is dealing with it. I understand the Deputy’s question because there are areas in my constituency that are not in the CLÁR programme that would like to be funded.

Ms Cathy McGoldrick, the principal of St. Mary's national school, who is listening in today, will, I hope, take some comfort from the possibility that the school in Ballyhaise could be included in CLÁR funding because there really is nowhere else for her to go. She sees schools close by that are faced with the same challenges but she is not able to access the funds they have.

I have mentioned Killinkere national school on numerous occasions. It has applied for CLÁR funding but unfortunately has been unsuccessful up to this point. I hope that will change in the near future. It is a school that desperately needs CLÁR funding for safety measures there. It is very much in the country but there is an 80 km/h speed limit on the road outside and the car park is across the road from the school. Something like CLÁR funding and a successful application for Killinkere national school would make a world of difference and give parents peace of mind.

This is a comment, not a promise. I want to sit down with people from the Departments of Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs to see whether we can formulate some kind of a scheme that would deal with the problem that the Deputy has. I know it. I see it in areas that genuinely need the safety scheme but have a problem because they are not in the CLÁR area.