The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Ireland was set out in Ballymahon, Co Longford, by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Monday.
The investment plans contains a number of measures to rejuvenate rural areas of the State, including towns, villages and regional cities.
Among its main aims are to increase employment, improve health services and encourage more people to live in the centre of rural towns and villages.
The plan aims to create 135,000 jobs in rural areas by 2020, along with investing €50 million in “collaborative approaches” to job creation. It also aims to increase foreign direct investment in regional areas by up to 40 per cent.
Improving employment opportunities for young people in rural areas, with an emphasis on increasing apprenticeships and trainee schemes is also included in the plan.
The Government has already set a target of having 50,000 people in apprenticeships by 2020 and wants over 100 apprenticeship schemes in place.
Gaeltacht areas are also identified as areas for investment, with the the creation of 1,500 new jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies by 2020. Innovation Hubs are to be developed in Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltachts to support entrepreneurship.
The action plan also aims to increase the number of tourists to rural Ireland by 12 per cent in the next three years through targeted initiatives, while an Atlantic Economic Corridor will be established to drive jobs and investment along the western seaboard .
Also included in the plan is the delivery of 18 new primary care centres in rural Ireland by the end of next year.
An investment of €435million in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals up to 2021 is also outlined, which the Government says will create up to 5,000 construction jobs.
Broadband, transport and recreational facilities are also set to receive investment.
A recent study found that broadband speeds in some rural areas of Ireland are up to 36 times slower than those in towns and cities, and the plan aims to speed up the “the preparation for the rollout of high-speed broadband”for all homes and businesses “as early as possible.”
Sport, recreation and cultural facilities are also set to receive funding, with a €50 million investment to be spread throughout the country.
Over 4,000 rural community projects are also earmarked for investment, with the aim of “tackling social inclusion and providing to services”.
Transport also forms part of the plan with an assessment of rural transport routes outlined along with improvements and new routes developed “where necessary”.
The potential for investment in regional roads “in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021” will also be examined.
Building “safer” rural communities through the recruitment of 3,200 new garda members over the next four years (to reach a strength of 15,000 members) has also been included in the plan, along with funding for a community CCTV grant scheme.
“Significant investment” for the Senior Alert scheme has also been promised.
The plan also says it will “protect vital services in in rural Ireland by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services and protecting rural schools.”
Capital funding for flood risk schemes will be increased up to €80 million a year by 2019 and increased to €100 million a year by 2021.