The CSO recently published a statistical report on "Measuring Distance to Everyday Services in Ireland" which provides useful insights into how close people live to everyday facilities such as schools, hospitals, fire stations, and public transport stops.
The report shows that the average distance to most everyday services was at least three times longer for rural dwellings compared to urban dwellings. People in counties Galway, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon had higher average distances to most everyday services compared to other counties.
However, living in rural Ireland has its advantages, including a better quality of life, great community involvement, and lack of congestion.
It is not feasible to have a full range of high-end services in every single town, but we are putting initiatives in place to help people in rural areas to access services better. These include improvements to rural transport through the Local Link service, and the roll out of high-speed broadband through the National Broadband Plan.
We are also investing in towns, villages and communities through programmes such as CLÁR, LEADER, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, and the Community Services Programme, helping these communities to be more self-sustainable. The new national Social Enterprise Policy will also support local services in sectors such as healthcare, childcare and supports for older people.
My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural policy to succeed the Action Plan for Rural Development which reaches the end of its lifecycle this year. The new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to a range of matters impacting on rural Ireland.
My officials will reflect on the data in the recent CSO report in finalising the policy.