Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (39)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

39. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the feedback he received from stakeholders during his recent roadshow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22727/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Ceist ar Rural)

Permission has been given for Deputy McLoughlin to take Question No. 39.

I am taking this question on behalf of Deputy Peter Burke. It asks the Minister for an update of the feedback he has received from stakeholders during the roadshow.

The feedback I received at each of these events was overwhelmingly positive. The rural opportunity roadshow and campaign was a cross-Government initiative led by my Department. It was designed to highlight the opportunities available for rural communities to access funding for projects in their areas through the range of programmes provided across Government. The events took place at rural venues in Thomastown, County Kilkenny; Granard, County Longford; Corofin, County Clare; Drimarone, County Donegal; and Castletownroche, County Cork. Representatives from community groups and stakeholders in rural areas were invited to the events and we had an excellent response, with over 120 attendees at each event.

At the events I shared the stage with representatives from communities and business in rural Ireland who successfully availed of Government supports for projects in their area. These case studies showed how the supports available have made a positive impact in rural Ireland in terms of community development, job creation and tourism and cultural development.  More important, they communicated to those in attendance how such supports could be secured and they hopefully inspired other communities and individuals to develop their own community, tourism or business projects.  In order to spread this message as widely as possible, my Department also created a video which showcased other successful projects funded by Government already delivering in rural Ireland.  This video has been pushed out on social media and has already been viewed over 630,000 times on Twitter.

After each event, officials from my Department, along with other Departments and State agencies, met with attendees.  They provided guidance and advice to those seeking information on the range of rural supports available. In that regard, the rural opportunity campaign complemented the helping hands workshops being rolled out by my Department and Pobal, with the help of local authorities and local development companies.  These workshops set out to assist less experienced community groups and organisations in accessing funding schemes and programmes.  The rural opportunity campaign, combined with the assistance provided by the helping hands workshops, will inspire and assist communities all across rural Ireland. With the aid of the supports available across Government, these communities can make their vision and ambition a reality.

I thank the Minister, on my behalf and that of my colleague. The money being spent in communities by the Department, and as a result of the Minister's intervention via Pobal and other organisations, is very welcome.

Many communities and businesses wish to improve their lot. The way to do this is through funding, which is something the Minister can provide. Hopefully, such funding will be available. Will the Minister indicate the amount of funding that will be available in coming years? People in rural areas speak of the Minister, his Department and the money that is being spent. All communities are benefiting as a result of the intervention of the Minister and his Department. I can see - and I am sure other Deputies must see - the money that is being spent in constituencies. Perhaps more funding needs to be made available but I welcome what the Minister said and I ask that he continue what he started.

I thank the Deputy again for raising this issue. The rural roadshows were undoubtedly a great success. They brought together people who drew down funding from LEADER and various Government schemes. Community activists attended and explained how the schemes worked. We also sent the Helping Hands roadshow around the country. I think Deputy Calleary was at the event in Ballina that was attended by a couple of hundred people. I am trying, particularly with Helping Hands, to do something to which Deputy McLoughlin referred, namely, ensure that groups which do not receive funding get an opportunity to make applications for funding. I set up Helping Hands and got my officials out to assist communities in order to ensure that they are able to make applications. Sometimes professional groups or professionals within organisations are able to put applications together. Sometimes the groups I really want to receive funding are unable to draw it down. That is why we are out there giving them the help and support to do it. It is important that every corner of rural Ireland gets the opportunity to be able to make applications and draw down the funding.

I call Deputy Carey. He should ask a short supplementary question.

I congratulate the Minister on the initiative he has taken. It is also important that he listens to the feedback from the roadshow. It was very clear that the town and village centres need investment. I compliment the Minister on taking that feedback on board. The new rural regeneration and development fund applications will be successful, I am told, if there is an emphasis on village and town renewal projects, making them better places in which to live and work. Will the Minister comment on this?

We did take feedback. Sometimes when one listens to national media, one hears about what is going on in rural Ireland. It is a pity that some of the media did not come out to see what is actually happening on the ground. I visited the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's county, Donegal. The enthusiasm that was there and the number of people who turned up was remarkable. I visited Deputy Carey's county, Clare. One can see what is being done in rural Ireland by community groups. I will just say that I would love for RTÉ to go out and cover a small bit of positivity and see what is actually happening on the ground. I would tell Deputy Danny Healy-Rae that is not all bad. There is a lot of very good stuff happening in counties Kerry, Cork, Donegal and Mayo. RTÉ does not see the good stuff that is happening and I invite its people down so that I can show them.

What about west Cork?

(Interruptions).

Reference was made there to more money. We could not give Deputy Danny Healy-Rae any more money. His machines are going 24 hours a day, they are not able to go any more than that.

I ask the Minister not to burst the sound system, please. I call Deputy Calleary.