The Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as a whole-of-Government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland. One of the objectives of the Action Plan is to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas. The coordinated approach of the Action Plan is achieving benefits in terms of increased employment in the regions and increased investment in projects and communities across the country.
Overall employment in the regions continues to grow, with an increase of over 146,000 people employed outside of Dublin between 2015 and 2018. This surpasses the Government’s target of increasing employment outside of Dublin by 135,000 by 2020.
Specific figures for job creation are not available at the level requested by the Deputy. However, CSO statistics show an increase in persons in employment in the Midlands region (which includes the counties of Laois and Offaly) from 127,200 in Q3 2018 to 131,400 in Q3 2019.
Over 132,000 jobs in IDA client companies are now based outside of Dublin, representing 58% of client companies' employment. More than 60% of the 18,846 new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland’s client companies in 2018 were outside of the Dublin region. The agency's figures indicate employment growth of 4% in the Midlands in 2018.
The Regional Enterprise Plans, which are overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, play a particularly important role in supporting job creation in the regions. My own Department also contributes directly to job creation in rural areas through programmes such the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and LEADER. LEADER is a multi-annual programme which has a budget of €250 million over the period to 2020 and has a job creation target of 3,100 over the lifetime of the programme.
The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide investment of €1 billion into rural areas over the period 2019-2027. In November, I announced funding of €62 million for 26 projects through the Fund. To date, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund has now provided €148 million to 110 projects with a total value of €212 million. These projects will have a transformational effect on towns, villages and rural areas across Ireland and further support job creation.