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Rural Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 21 October 2021

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Questions (386)

Paul McAuliffe


386. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the grants that are available to community groups or local authorities for the provision of eHubs in rural villages at present; if there are further schemes envisaged to bring vacant properties into use or grants for community groups to renovate community halls for the purpose of eHubs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51738/21]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department operates a number of funding schemes that focus on projects supporting remote working through the development of hubs, including the development of BCPs as long-term, digitally-enabled community assets.

Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, recognises the impact which these hubs can have and the potential of remote working hubs as key economic assets for our rural towns and villages. Notwithstanding the clear benefits to individuals and families in terms of quality of life indicators, remote working from hubs will also support local economies, reduce carbon emissions and may arrest or reverse the depopulation of certain areas.  

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme both support the establishment of new digital hubs. In April, I announced funding of €81m for 25 landmark projects under the RRDF. Many of the successful projects involve the regeneration of historic town centre buildings as Enterprise and Co-Working Hubs. Support for new remote working hubs is also one of the areas being prioritised under my Department's 2021 Town and Village Renewal Scheme. The focus is on establishing new remote working facilities in town and village centres where properties are currently vacant or where existing community/ publicly owned buildings can be repurposed. This call closed to applications on 16 July 2021 and the assessment process is currently underway, with successful projects set to be announced by the end of the year. 

In May I launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the platform. This platform will offer a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the Network. To date the National Hub Network Working Group identified and mapped over 450 remote working hubs throughout the country. Approximately 150 hubs have been on boarded onto the platform, with this number rising each month. The remainder will be invited to join the Connected Hubs Network creating a shared infrastructure that will deliver real benefits across the country.  

In July this year, through the Connected Hubs funding stream, I awarded close to €9 million in funding to 118 successful applicants.  This funding  will allow for the expansion of existing hub facilities and remote working infrastructure in digital hubs, including Broadband Connection Points, throughout the country.

I am happy to confirm that I have secured additional funding as part of Budget 2022 across the range of services provided by my Department, including for the further support of remote working hubs. Details of calls for applications to relevant funding streams will be announced by my Department in due course.