The Action Plan for Rural Development has been the key vehicle for delivery of the Government’s support for rural development over the last three years. My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural policy for Ireland, to follow on from the action plan which reaches the end of its three year life cycle at the end of 2019.
The new five-year policy will be forward-looking and will build on the progress achieved through the Action Plan for Rural Development. It will seek to strengthen and build resilience in our rural economies and communities and will identify policy measures which need to be put in place to achieve those objectives.
The process of developing the new policy has involved a wide range of stakeholder consultation events with rural communities and groups, Departments, State agencies, young people and the wider public.
An online survey was also conducted, which allowed the public to prioritise what they consider to be the main challenges and opportunities facing rural Ireland over the coming years. There was a very significant response to the survey, with over 1,700 responses. The insights and views captured through this extensive consultation process have helped to identify the issues that matter to people living and working in rural Ireland.
The new policy is being finalised and I anticipate that it will be launched early in the new year. As is the case with the current action plan, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.
Since my Department was established in July 2017, we have developed and delivered a wide range of strategic programmes and policies to support the economic and social progress of rural areas and urban and rural communities. I am always open to the possibility of considering additional responsibilities that are consistent with my Department's mission of supporting vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland.