Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Dec 2019

Vol. 990 No. 6

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Action Plan for Rural Development Implementation

Dara Calleary


1. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress in meeting commitments to improve the provision of public services in rural areas as the Department responsible for the implementation of the Action Plan for Rural Development, and the discussions he has had with his colleagues regarding meeting targets in the plan. [50956/19]

I am seeking an update from the Minister for Rural and Community Development regarding the implementation of the Action Plan for Rural Development. Given that I listen to him most weekends in our constituency, I can nearly anticipate his response but I want him to focus on a comment he made last summer that other Ministers were dumping stuff on his Department. He may not have used the word "dumping" but that is what he meant, in other words, that all rural services and issues were going to be left to his Department. What engagement has he had with other Ministers about what they should be doing in their Departments as opposed to leaving it all to the Minister's Department?

I am delighted that the Deputy is so happy that I am doing so well with my Department. The Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as the first whole-of-Government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland. The cross-departmental approach of the action plan to support rural communities and rural businesses is benefiting rural areas in many ways. It is driving job creation, improving access to services and enhancing the quality of life in rural Ireland.

The action plan contains measures for delivery across a number of Departments and agencies aimed at enhancing local services, including in the areas of healthcare, schools and initiatives addressing mental health and isolation. For example, the delivery of 18 primary care centres in rural areas was a commitment under the plan and these are all now open and fully operational. My Department has provided funding to Irish Men's Sheds to support the great work the organisation does to address mental health and isolation in communities. There are now over 450 men's sheds across the country. My Department also invested €6.9 million in the seniors alert scheme in 2018 and over 53,000 participants are being supported by the scheme.

These are just some examples of the measures being progressed and are in addition to the very substantial investment that my Department has made in rural communities through programmes such as the town and village renewal scheme, LEADER, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, CLÁR and, more recently, the rural regeneration and development fund.

A monitoring committee comprising senior representatives of relevant Departments and key rural stakeholder interests oversees progress on the implementation of the action plan. In addition, my officials are in regular contact with their colleagues in other Departments regarding the progress of relevant measures. Progress reports on the implementation of the action plan are published twice yearly on the Gov.ie website.

The action plan reaches the end of its three-year cycle this year. My Department is developing a new rural policy for Ireland that will be launched in the new year. As is the case with the current action plan, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government approach to supporting rural Ireland.

The Minister spoke about improving access to services, enhancing quality of life and healthcare. Last week, the Central Statistics Office, CSO, published statistics showing that there is a considerable difference between rural and urban areas when it comes to average distance from services. The statistics showed that while the average distance in Ireland to the nearest HSE adult emergency department or hospital was more than 20 km, in rural areas it was over 30 km. There were higher average distances in counties Mayo, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon and those distances are increasing. Basic community services like supermarkets and shops are closing and there is a greater distance to travel.

What specific initiatives will be included in the new plan to ensure a basic level of services is available at an accessible distance? Many of the initiatives mentioned by the Minister are worthy and welcome but unless there are basic services, we will not encourage people to remain in rural communities. What if people have to take a journey for medical reasons on roads that may not be good? We saw this morning the difficulties with ambulance access shown by a very tragic case in Donegal. We need to make sure that the basic services are in place.

The CSO report was interesting but the Deputy and I could have written it. We both live in rural Ireland and know the distances people have to travel to access services. This is why we built 18 health centres. We did so to make it easier for people to access services. I read the CSO report the other day. The situation in rural England or rural Spain is no different from the situation here. We will not be able to have hospitals and other large services in every town and village. However, the Deputy must agree that we in rural areas have a quality of life that people elsewhere do not have. While people may have services in Dublin, if one is in the city in the morning or after 3 p.m., one will see congestion and people having to stay in their cars. I feel sorry for these people who have to travel early in the morning and late in the evening. The one thing we have in rural Ireland is quality of life.

Over the past three years, through the town and village renewal scheme, the rural regeneration and development fund, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme and other schemes, the Department has put in place facilities and provided jobs. Six out of every ten jobs created last year were in rural Ireland. We must get more jobs into the regions because more services will follow.

I agree with the Minister about quality of life, etc., but quality of life does not put butter on potatoes. Unless there are services, we will not be able to keep people in rural areas. It is a vicious circle. Without people, there are no services and without services, there are no people so there needs to be a minimum level of service. I do not want hospitals on every corner but I want to know that if I ring for an ambulance, I will not spend hours waiting for one. The figures released for the first quarter of this year show that response times in seven out of the eight ambulance regions countrywide were worse when compared with last year's figures. If we have all this investment, including in services, why are services getting worse? Why are people's experiences of services in rural areas getting worse? While quality of life is wonderful, what we need in the plan is a guarantee of a basic level of services. We need to build to deliver that basic level of services and a contract to access other services so that people know that if they need services, they will be able to get them.

I know I am stepping into another Minister's area but I do not mind doing so. The reason for greater demand on services is that more people are living in rural Ireland. It is not me saying that. The Deputy cited the CSO figures, which also tell us that more people are living and working in rural Ireland. People are moving back to rural Ireland. Of course, we will have to improve services, including the ambulance services.

There are demands for hospitals, nursing homes and school places. That is what my colleagues and I will be addressing in our next plan. I will sit down with my officials and we will look to see what is actually happening and what services are needed in rural Ireland. Resources are going to have to be put in place to ensure that we provide the services people need.

As the Deputy indicated, people in rural Ireland are entitled to have these services at a reasonable distance from their homes. As I stated earlier, we cannot have hospitals and secondary schools in every village but these services should be in reasonable locations in areas to which people can travel. That is why we are looking at Local Link services. There are many other services that we are trying to provide. We are trying to bring people who live in rural areas to hospital appointments and assist them in every way we can.

Regional Development

Brian Stanley


2. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role of his Department in the development of the midlands following news that two power stations are set to close, which will give rise to job losses. [50292/19]

My question for the Minister relates to the role that his Department can play in the development of the midlands following the news of the closures of power stations at Lough Ree and Shannonbridge. Those closures are going to have a significant impact, as will the general scaling down of the peat industry. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is involved but how can the Minister's Department help the midlands?

The responsibility for energy policy matters falls within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

However, there is an all-of-Government response and commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for those communities that are impacted by the closure of the two power stations in the midlands. The delivery of a package of investment and supports for the midlands will be overseen by the recently appointed just transition commissioner, Mr. Kieran Mulvey.

My Department was established in 2017 with a mission to promote rural and community development and support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities. I am therefore focused on ensuring that the transition to a low-carbon future happens in a just and fair manner. It is important to recognise the potential for climate action measures to be felt differently in different parts of the country, including in rural Ireland.

My Department is represented on the just transition task force being led by the National Economic and Social Council and we intend to be a strong voice for engagement with communities and their involvement in the transition measures.

My Department is finalising the next phase of rural policy for Ireland, which will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural areas. Climate action, new ways of working and the changing nature of jobs are among the key challenges which the new rural policy will seek to put in place measures to address.

In addition, to support communities, including those in the midlands, there is a full range of funding and supports programmes being delivered by my Department.

Since 2017, Longford and Offaly, the counties in which the closures are taking place, have been allocated in excess of €34 million by my Department for projects that facilitate and encourage economic development and provide facilities that support the sustainability of our communities.

Last month's announcement of funding under the rural regeneration and development fund included €522,000 for a community and economic hub in Abbeyshrule, County Longford, and the same amount for a project aimed at regenerating the town of Edenderry in County Offaly.

My objective, and that of my Department, is to ensure that the funds available to me are targeted at those sectors and communities most in need and that will continue to be the case.

I thank the Minister for his reply. He will understand from where I am coming. Bord na Móna and the ESB have been large employers and significant parts of life in the midlands; indeed, the economic backbone of the area to a large extent. Towns like Shannonbridge, Ferbane and Cloghan will be badly hit by these closures.

I welcome the fact that the Department of Rural and Community Development is represented on the just transition task force. That is important. There is a need to start generating new industries around biomass and biogas. The Minister and Department can feed into the different key objectives of the action plan for rural development by providing the necessary skills, training and supports to people throughout the agricultural sector.

It is also important that we look at tourism in these areas. There are opportunities to improve areas along the River Shannon. We have had the Wild Atlantic Way but there has not been much of a focus on the midlands and we need to bring the same attention to the Shannon region and improve it. I would like to see focus being brought to those areas.

I am glad that Kieran Mulvey has been appointed the just transition commissioner because that is a good move. I worked with him when he chaired a task force about inner city Dublin and he did a tremendous job. The Government went on to support the particular project that the task force came up with.

My Department provides rural regeneration and development funding. We gave €1.2 million for the upgrade of Emo Court, €1 million for the Barrow blueway, €1.2 million for the regeneration of Edgeworthstown, €2.8 million for the historical Granard Motte project and €1.6 million for the mountain bike trails in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. We have an available fund of €1 billion over ten years.

My Department is flexible and will examine where there is a need and a demand. I have not allowed, and will not allow, my Department to only deal with a particular area but instead to deal with the whole of rural Ireland. Funding needs to address specific needs and cases and must be targeted at areas that have suffered and neither I nor my Department will be found wanting in that regard.

It is only right that we look at ways and means to support the midlands. I know the ways in which the areas that Deputy Stanley represents are suffering, as does Deputy Calleary. I was a Member of this House when Bellacorick faced a similar problem. Crossmolina, Belmullet and other such areas all suffered from the closure of the power station down there. I know exactly from where Deputy Stanley is coming. An all-of-Government approach has been put in place to respond and it is vital that this be adhered to.

I welcome what the Minister has said about the focus of the Department and that he recognises this is a special case. He also mentioned the Slieve Bloom bike trail, which is an important project for Laois-Offaly. That needs to be completed and the Minister's officials might send me a note outlining where the Department is on that project because it is important to see it through to completion. Big progress is being made on that important project.

I will refer to the enterprise pillar in the action plan for rural jobs. There are excellent jobs clubs in the midlands, including the one in Portarlington and the Laois partnership. The jobs club in Portarlington deals with people from Laois and Offaly. There has been a focus in recent years on moving people to organisations such as Turas Nua. The Minister will recognise that jobs clubs turn out the goods despite the very small amount of money that goes into them. There may be a need for more jobs clubs to provide supports to get people back into work and allow them to diversify.

I will send the Deputy the details on the Slieve Bloom project, which is exciting and which will create jobs in the region.

Kieran Mulvey will be talking to all interest groups and I am glad that Bord na Móna and the ESB are ready to talk. Some funding will be put in place. Some €6 million was allocated in the budget for a just transition fund and the ESB has agreed to put €5 million into that.

We need to look at ways and means to support these families and try to create jobs. There are lots of good ideas and talented people out there. I hope they will be able to generate the jobs that are needed to replace existing jobs. I know the effect on people when they lose their jobs. It is sad for families. The Government is committed to helping. Kieran Mulvey has been appointed. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, led a number of Ministers to the midlands recently, and the Government understands that a very serious problem exists there. The Government understands that it needs to support, help and try to regenerate the midlands and plans to do that.

National Broadband Plan

Dara Calleary


3. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the operational details of broadband connection points that will be provided within the first 12 months of the national broadband roll-out; and the role of his Department in the task. [50957/19]

My question is on the national broadband plan, specifically whether the roll-out of the broadband connection points, BCPs, is still on schedule. Will they be available to people? What services will be available to those within those points?

I thank Deputy Calleary for the question. The broadband connection point, BCP, initiative will see high-speed broadband services bought to more than 300 sites in remote and rural areas across the country as a first phase of the national broadband plan.

BCPs are typically community centres, schools and sports clubs that will act as access hubs for local people, providing on-site access to the Internet. The sites have been deliberately selected in remote and sparsely populated areas that would not otherwise be among the earliest to receive high-speed broadband under the national development plan.

Many of these sites are on islands or in areas with widely dispersed and remote homes and businesses.

Further details on each of the BCPs are available on National Broadband Ireland's website, www.nbi.ie. As the initiative develops, additional information, such as opening hours and services offered, will be made available through the NBI website.

My officials have worked closely with local authority broadband officers in the first instance to identify the selected sites and, more recently, to help develop the facilities at each of the locations to ensure that full advantage is taken of the high-speed broadband once it arrives. I recently issued an information booklet, via the broadband officers, for BCP site owners. This document provides greater detail on the technologies to be used and how the connections will be made, alongside other relevant information.

I will host a workshop of local authority chief executives later this month at which I intend to highlight the role that BCPs will play in improving rural access to digital services.

My Department will also procure a provider, or providers, for the installation of access infrastructure at the connection points. It is intended that the winning tenderer will work closely with NBI over the course of next year to ensure that the approximately 300 BCPs are delivered within the first year of the roll-out of the national broadband plan.

I thank the Minister of State. Has he clarified precisely when those 300 points will be delivered? Will it be during 2020 or 2021? This plan has all the signs of making it up as we are going along. That has been the constant threat in terms of it. What will the speed of the connections be in each of these BCPs? What will be the cost? If I am the owner of a company, will I be able to access the BCP for my business? Will the security be in place for me to do that? Will I be able to use a BCP to work from home, for instance, if I am based in Dublin? What is the position on the procurement process for the operators? When will the Minister be in a position to announce the operator? If we are to believe the Minister's commitments in respect of BCPs being rolled out completely in 2020, we seem to be a long way off basic preparations in that context.

It will be within the first year of the broadband contract, which was signed last week. We are talking about 12 months from the signing of the contract.

To explain where the broadband connection points will be located, they will be in places such as community centres, schools, sports clubs, heritage and tourism sites, businesses and miscellaneous sites. There are four different types of broadband connection points. Category 1, which is internal access, could be a business centre situated in a public building that provides access to local businesses that may otherwise have to commute to access required broadband services. The Deputy asked me if people in Dublin can work from home. They cannot but they can work from this centre where they can access broadband to do their work.

Category 2, which is internal access, is a hot desk facility that is open business hours or on demand within business hours. Category 3, internal access, is a facility with limited public access that might be open a couple of hours a day or a few days a week. Category 4, which is external access, would be a local Wi-Fi hub. Most BCPs will offer a mixture of internal and external access to high-speed broadband. I assure the Deputy, because it is as much of a problem for me as it is for him in his constituency, that no stone will be left unturned in delivering these 300 sites as a first step.

The Minister of State wants 300 of these BCPs rolled out by this time next year. We do not have an operator. The Minister has not answered my question on the speed of connection that will be available at these sites. He has not answered my question on the cost to people. He gave me the general information that we have already. In his final reply, will he indicate what the cost will be, the speed, and when he will be in a position to award a contract to an operator who then will have to roll out 300 of these sites in six or seven months?

First, I reassure the Deputy that a process is in place. The procurement has begun. The cost of it will be determined by the procurement, as he knows well. There is a budget within the overall broadband cost but we will not know the cost until we get the tenders back.

Second, I assure the Deputy that every one of the broadband officers in the 31 local authorities is working closely with all the communities and providers of these hubs to make sure we deliver this on time, in partnership with National Broadband Ireland. This contract has been signed a week or two weeks at this stage, so we are progressing. I will be meeting the chief executives of each local authority to ensure they are completely focused on the delivery of this roll-out. I am also working closely with our Department officials to make sure that happens. I reassure the Deputy again that as and when we get the costs and the delivery of each one of the BCPs, it will be made known on the website. The Deputy has to understand that a process will be gone through but we will have them in place within 12 months of the signing of the contract.

Recreational Facilities

Richard Boyd Barrett


4. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the necessary funds and support will be provided to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to ensure the community supervised playground on Library Road, Dún Laoghaire, is maintained as a supervised playground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50939/19]

This is a local issue to Dún Laoghaire but it is very important. The playground on Library Road, formerly Johnny Carr's Park, has been a supervised playground since the Dominican nuns supervised it. Generations of local people from Dún Laoghaire have effectively been brought up in this playground. For the past ten years, Crosscare has employed two part-time supervisors of that playground, Pauline and Jill, but that supervision is being removed. Will the Minister's Department entertain discussions with stakeholders, including the council, Crosscare and Barnardos, to try to maintain the supervision of this playground?

I thank the Deputy for raising the question. My Department provides funding for facilities such as playgrounds through capital grants for the provision of playground infrastructure, including multi-use games areas, MUGAs, through schemes such as the community enhancement programme and the CLÁR programme.

I understand also that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs administers a capital grant funding scheme to provide new play and recreational facilities for children and young people, or to refurbish existing ones, or a combination of both, and has regular engagement with the local authority play and recreation network.

While my Department provides funding towards the capital cost of providing playground infrastructure and equipment, it does not provide funding towards the ongoing running cost of managing such facilities, including the cost of supervision. The cost of providing supervision would not meet the criteria for any funding scheme currently operated by my Department.

Responsibility for the provision of amenities such as playgrounds is under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, whose Department supports local government in its role of promoting the well-being and quality of life of citizens and communities through the efficient and effective performance of its functions and the delivery of good value services at local level.

I understand that the playground referred to by the Deputy is a facility that is being supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority.

The funding has been provided by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Disgracefully, the executive has made a decision to pull the funding because Crosscare has pulled out, which I believe is a retrograde decision. The cost of it is buttons, at approximately €40,000 a year for two part-time staff who are members of the local community, but the value they give to the community is extraordinary. Children from the youngest up to the ages of 13 and 14 are supervised in the playground. Many of them are children with special needs. The playground is in an area where there is a DEIS school, so it is a pocket of disadvantage in Dún Laoghaire. If it is lost, many of these children will not go to other playgrounds. In areas of disadvantage, this is a very cheap example, in terms of the cost to the public, of providing early intervention and monitoring of vulnerable young people in many cases.

I am appealing to the Minister to play some role in maintaining what is a vital community facility.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for asking the question. I will offer the only solution available to me. The community services programme in my Department supports 400 organisations nationally and provides funding for a manager and staff. We pay €32,000 for a manager and €19,000 for staff members. The Deputy could also contact the social inclusion and community activation programme to check if it could provide support or assistance or if there is anything that can be done. That programme is also administered by my Department.

The scheme in my Department provides capital funding. It does not provide for staffing or supervision. That is not the role of the Department. We simply do not have the resources to do that. The Deputy could try to have a scheme provided under the community services programme, which operates throughout the country. Some 400 organisations and thousands of people are benefitting. We do not pay them a full salary but we make a major contribution to salaries - €32,000 for a manager and €19,000 for staff members. Perhaps the Deputy would look at that.

I appreciate that and I will look into it. It is maybe an area of hope. I wish the council executive in Dún Laoghaire showed as much energy and interest in maintaining this playground as the Minister has demonstrated in the past five minutes. I appreciate the thought.

I thank Deputy Calleary for passing me a note. I appeal to Fianna Fáil on this matter as well. Fianna Fáil is now in control of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Disappointingly, both of the party's prospective general election candidates, having initially said they supported the supervision at the playground, have now done a U-turn. I believe this was done under pressure from the executive of the council, which does not want to keep the supervision. I call on Deputy Calleary to appeal to his party members who will suffer a political price in Dún Laoghaire if they do not secure supervision of this playground.

I appreciate the Minister's response and I will look into the matter. I accept that it is a matter for local government as well but there should be joined-up thinking on these issues. When something is good and working, serves a community and helps to glue a community together for generations, why on earth would we let it go?

We also have the community enhancement programme under which we provided, on average, €120,000 to each local authority. That is discretionary and is done by the local community development committees and elected representatives. Perhaps funding from that could be used to fund the measure the Deputy seeks.

Councils and councillors have to make decisions as well. We provide the budget for capital and the funding for the community services and the community enhancement programmes. The matter is now in their hands. They can make a decision and I hope it will be the correct one.

Island Communities

Catherine Connolly


5. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development to outline the policies of his Department on the islands, as requested by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with regard to the interdepartmental committee for island development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50938/19]

This is a specific question relating to the Minister's policies for the islands. I have a particular interest because in Galway West we have four islands, namely, the three Aran Islands and Inishbofin. Thus, I have a particular interest in all of the islands. I want clarity on the Department's current policy on the islands.

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.

I welcome that a new rural policy will focus on the islands. I am a stickler for sticking to the question. What is the current policy of the Department in respect of the islands? A question by Deputy Calleary elicited the information that Ministers were all asked to come back with their current policies. The inaugural meeting of the interdepartmental committee on the policy for the islands took place on 24 September. I ask the Minister of State to confirm that his Department was represented at that meeting. Each Department was asked to come back with its current policy. The reason I am being so specific is that I am fully familiar with the issue. I have the consultation paper before me as Gaeilge agus Béarla. I have all the previous reports as well. The difficulty is that island communities face far more challenges, as the Minister of State knows, than rural areas, which are certainly challenged too. I agree that we need a vibrant rural community. What are the current policies of the Department on the islands and the challenges currently facing them?

Our current policies are guided by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which has responsibility for the islands. We work closely with those responsible. The cross-Government departmental committee for island development has been established and is chaired by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Our Department actively participates in this group to identify areas of mutual interest and potential collaboration.

We talked about the response to the digital age. We should look at the story created in Arranmore in County Donegal, which has set up a hub. I met one of the island's residents in Brussels last Tuesday. The model has been shown across Europe to illustrate what can be done.

Broadband connection points are also relevant. The Department has also allocated broadband connection points to islands in recognition of their isolation.

I assure the Deputy that the islands are high on the Government's agenda. Action in this area is led by the Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Kyne. We will continue to work across all Departments to ensure the islands remain on the agenda.

It is Christmas time and I note the positive comments of the Minister of State, but the way to heaven is paved with good intentions and reassurances. We need far more than that. We need a policy and we will get one next year, which is welcome. However, as part of the consultation process, each Department has to say what its current policies are. There certainly seems to be a major gap in the reply from the Minister of State, although that is not his fault. He has not outlined what the current policies of the Department are for the islands to make clear what the policies and challenges are. That is what the Department will have to do in the coming weeks as part of the process.

The Minister of State mentioned broadband and various other matters. We have heard this so often and it is all good but these issues have to be embedded in a policy and vision for the islands that recognises the challenges, including the fact that the population is declining. Islanders have showed us the way forward. They have shown us the sustainable way of living in tune with the environment. What we want is a policy as quickly as possible with input from the Department of Community and Rural Development, which is particularly important.

I compliment the Deputy who never exceeds the time limits. I appreciate that.

I repeat that we are working closely with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and we will have a new rural policy in early 2020.

Deputy Connolly asked about our policy. Current actions include the LEADER programme 2014-20, which supports island programmes. The programme has funded 129 projects and €880,000 has been allocated. The social inclusion and community activation programme provides direct supports through regions that focus directly on the islands. Comhar na nOileán received €29,633. The South West Mayo Development Company received €45,000 from SICAP to develop supports for the Mayo islands.

There is also the rural regeneration and development fund. These are not policies. These are opportunities for people to get funding streams to help develop their islands and they are being put forward by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Policies are fine but we must make sure we implement them. The proof of the pudding has been in the eating. The Deputy can see what has been delivered to the islands under the funding streams from the Department since the Department was set up. That record stands for itself.