Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Ceisteanna (19)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

19. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans for the development of rural recreation in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2824/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Actions to maximise Ireland’s rural tourism and recreation potential are implemented across a number of Government Departments and agencies, including Fáilte Ireland, Local Authorities, Waterways Ireland and Coillte.

My Department works closely with these organisations and delivers a number of funding initiatives in its own right that support the development of rural recreational infrastructure in Ireland.

For example, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme provides funding for the development, maintenance, enhancement and promotion of outdoor recreational infrastructure.

Since I introduced the scheme in 2016, I have approved almost 600 projects for funding of over €41 million. This investment has funded walkways, blueways, trails and other outdoor infrastructural projects around the country.

My Department also administers the Walks Scheme, which currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 private land-holders to maintain those trails.

The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme. In line with this commitment, funding for the scheme was doubled in Budget 2019 - from €2 million to 4 million - to allow this expansion to proceed this year.

My Department has also been working with the State Claims Agency in relation to the development of a National Indemnity Scheme to strengthen the protection for landowners in respect of recreational users on private lands. This is a priority for my Department in 2019 and it is my objective that a scheme will be agreed as early as possible this year.

There has been significant growth in the number of people engaging in outdoor pursuits in recent years, and I want to ensure that the countryside recreation sector can grow in a sustainable way into the future to protect the environment and support rural economies. This will require the input of all stakeholders.

I believe that Comhairle na Tuaite has a role to play in this regard. I have been reviewing the functions of Comhairle and I will shortly be issuing a new mandate to the group which will include a focus on sustainable use of the countryside.