Government action plan on rural Ireland ‘extremely encouraging’

Minister Michael Ring says there is still a long way to go to improve lives of those in rural areas

Minister Michael Ring with Aisling Maguire (11) from Ardee, Co Louth, with her dogs Millie  and Fudge, and Coleen O’Neill (14) from Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, with her dog Missy at the   show. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

Minister Michael Ring with Aisling Maguire (11) from Ardee, Co Louth, with her dogs Millie and Fudge, and Coleen O’Neill (14) from Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, with her dog Missy at the show. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

 

There was still a “long way to go” to fully deliver on Government commitments to improve the lives of people living and working in rural Ireland, but progress to date is “extremely encouraging”, Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has said.

The Minister said his department was examining ways to measure the impact of its policies on rural Ireland, to allow it to further support successful initiatives and to divert resources from those that had not worked as well.

He said the Government was also continuing to monitor the possible impacts of Brexit on the rural economy and on the Border area.

On Wednesday, Mr Ring published the first progress report of the Action Plan for Rural Development launched in January and said 195 of 202 actions due for delivery in the first half of the year had been completed on schedule or were in progress.

Speaking at the Virginia Show in Co Cavan, Mr Ring said: “There is certainly no room for complacency but this progress report shows that we are moving in the right direction.”

The plan contains a total of 276 actions to be delivered by Government, State agencies and other bodies over the next three years to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland.

Recreational scheme

Some of the actions under way include the outdoor recreation scheme, which is providing €11.4 million to 219 projects to enhance outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas and the Clár programme, which is providing €7 million for 231 projects to support disadvantaged rural communities.

The progress report says the need for further specific research on the impact of Brexit, particularly on rural areas in the Border region is under consideration at present.

“Of course we are all concerned about Brexit,” Mr Ring said.

“It’s the Taoiseach’s and the Government’s job to make sure that to the best of our ability, we protect our own country, and we don’t want to see the Border back again,” he said.

“I’m hoping at some stage that the British government might have a whole look at this Brexit again.”

Areas where the progress on the rural action have been delayed include a plan to develop revised regulations to allow the mobile industry to accelerate the rollout of 4G services by exempting 4G masts from requiring planning permission.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, who toured the 76th annual Virginia Show with Irish Farmers’ Association president Joe Healy, said the event indicated the strength of local communities.

‘Feel-good factor’

There was a “wonderful feel-good factor” to it, she said.

About 15,000 people attended the one-day event in the Cavan town, enjoying horse and cattle shows, arts and crafts, music, trade stands a food hall and children’s events. The show carries total prize money of more than €40,000

In a large shed, 30 Holstein Friesian heifers were being groomed with electric trimmers, hairdryers and brushes in advance of the prestigious Diageo Baileys Champion Dairy Cow competition, with a prize fund of more than €10,000.

The winner was Hilltara Lanthority Echo 2, owned by Sam McCormick of Bangor, Co Down.

Tony Farrelly, who was working as a steward at the event and who is also a local farmer, said the event was always enjoyable but that it also involved a lot of work all year round.

Asked how much the prize heifers would change hands for, he said: “It’s like selling a house in Ballsbridge. You just don’t know.”