Our Rural Future is the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in Ireland for decades.
The policy contains more than 150 measures for delivery across the whole of Government, with the underlying theme of economic, environmental and societal sustainability. The policy has a vision of ensuring vibrant and thriving rural towns and villages, with a key objective to maximise opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses in rural areas. It recognises that rural areas play an integral role in the economic, social and cultural recovery and wellbeing of the country.
The policy commits to developing an effective rural proofing model. This will ensure that all Departments fully consider the effects of new proposals on rural communities, as well as the need to address the particular challenges and opportunities facing rural areas and will support the identification of impacts that may arise.
Following a competitive tender process, my Department has engaged independent consultants to fully examine the issue of rural proofing in Ireland in order to provide a strong evidence basis for further action. Their work will include consideration of rural proofing initiatives internationally so as to inform our approach based on the experiences of others.
I am expecting a report on the matter shortly, which will present a series of recommendations on approaches to rural proofing to my Department. Once received, the report will be given full and due consideration to determine the next steps.