The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation. The aim of CLÁR is to support the sustainable development of designated CLÁR areas with the aim of encouraging people to continue to live and work in those areas. The funding provided under CLÁR works in conjunction with local funding and on the basis of locally identified priorities.
CLÁR 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 NIRSA Institute 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 re-launched the programme in the second half of 2016, using as a base-line 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 re-launched the programme in 2016.
I have recently initiated a review of the CLÁR programme which will examine CLÁR areas by reference to the 2016 Census of Population data. It will also consider whether there are any other factors that should be taken into account in designating areas for eligibility under CLÁR. The review, once completed, will also help to inform future CLÁR programmes.
Decisions regarding the specific measures to be supported under the CLÁR programme this year will be made shortly and I anticipate that the 2019 CLÁR Programme will be opened for new applications in the first quarter of the year.