Closed-down rural housing body may resume activity

Rural Resettlement Ireland remains ready to assist in migration of people to country

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “I can certainly see a place for a rural resettlement scheme.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “I can certainly see a place for a rural resettlement scheme.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

A housing body which has assisted more then 800 families to move to new homes in rural Ireland has said it stands ready to resume operations if Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is serious about rural resettlement.

Rural Resettlement Ireland provided assistance to families wishing to relocate from urban areas in search of a better quality of life, for almost 28 years.

But founder Jim Connolly said it was forced to gradually wind down after funding was cut by the government in 2012.

Mr Connolly said the last member of staff received her redundancy payment the same week that Mr Varadkar said a voluntary resettlement scheme could be considered to help address the country’s housing crisis.

Mr Varadkar said such a scheme would see families moving from local authority housing in congested urban areas to homes in rural Ireland.

The Taoiseach said, in an article last weekend, it was “eminently logical that parts of the country where there’s been rural depopulation, where there are properties available, where there are places in schools, where there are services available, I can certainly see a place for a rural resettlement scheme”.

Move from cities

Veteran campaigner for rural resettlement Jim Connolly said it appeared Mr Varadkar wanted “to reinvent the wheel”.

Mr Connolly said Rural Resettlement Ireland had been assisting people moving from cities to towns, villages and rural areas.

“In turn this assisted shops and schools to keep going and revitalised places,” he said. The popularity of the operation spread rapidly and it was active from Leitrim to Co Cork.

The services were free and the organisation became an approved housing body and a registered charity. It also became directly involved in the provision of social housing, building 21 houses in Co Clare.

But, in 2012, its funding was cut by government, according to Mr Connolly who said a staff of up to five had to be gradually let go.

“The last worker just got her redundancy,” he said.

Technically open

Despite not being able to process new applications, the charity remains technically open as it is in the process of transferring management services for the 21 houses on its books to Clare County Council.

But Mr Connolly said the organisation would be ready to resume if Mr Varadkar was to fund its activities.

He said one of the greatest obstacles to moving to a rural area was in families giving up a tenancy with no guarantee of a new tenancy or social supports such as rent allowance in the counties to which they move.

“In the past we had help from Government departments, and we could give people letters saying they would get rent allowance.” But he said the organisation was told in 2012 there was to be “no more money”.