The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which has responsibility for the islands, is developing a national islands policy for publication in 2020. Our Department participates on the interdepartmental working group established to provide inputs to the development of the policy.
Island communities face similar challenges to other rural areas. However, they also face additional challenges due to their separation from the mainland. These issues can include transport connections and broadband provision in addition to access to services and a high dependence on traditional industries such as tourism, agriculture and fishing. The islands are strong showcases for our culture, heritage and natural resources. They can also provide opportunities for testing innovative new products and services, including in the area of renewable energy and emerging technologies.
A number of policies recently developed by the Department are relevant to island communities, including the national social enterprise policy and the five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland. The Department is developing the next phase of rural policy for Ireland to follow on from the Action Plan for Rural Development, which reaches the end of its three-year life cycle at the end of 2019. The new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland and synergies with other key policy initiatives, including the forthcoming islands policy. An extensive consultation process has taken place to inform the development of the new rural policy, including a stakeholder event on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, in May. In recognition of the unique challenges and circumstances facing the islands, the new rural policy will include a specific focus on island and coastal communities. It is anticipated the new rural policy, covering the timeframe 2020-25, will be published early in the new year.