The CLÁR programme was originally launched in October 2001 to provide for targeted investment in disadvantaged rural areas. The areas originally selected for inclusion in the programme were those which suffered the greatest population decline from 1926 to 1996. The Cooley Peninsula was also included, on the basis of the serious difficulties caused in that area by foot and mouth disease. The average population loss in the original CLÁR regions over the period 1926 to 1996 was 50%. In 2006, an analysis of the 2002 census data was carried out by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, NIRSA, at Maynooth University and the programme was extended to include areas with an average population loss of 35% between 1926 and 2002.
The CLÁR programme was closed for new applications in 2010. However, I relaunched the programme in the second half of 2016, using as a baseline the areas identified in the work carried out by NIRSA. Over 1,200 projects have been approved for funding of €25 million under CLÁR since I relaunched the programme in 2016.
I have now initiated a review of the CLÁR programme which will, in particular, examine CLÁR areas in light of the 2016 census of population data. The review process began on the 23 November with a targeted consultation meeting with a number of people who are recognised for their background and expertise in respect of rural development issues. The review will also involve more detailed stakeholder consultation and will inform launches of the CLÁR programme in the future. I anticipate that the review will be completed in the first half of 2019.