Minister to set up €15m fund for development of rural towns

Renewal scheme will benefit up to 200 places around country, says Michael Ring

 Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring: “The towns and villages of rural Ireland are the heart and soul of our rural communities and it is crucial that we revitalise these areas.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring: “The towns and villages of rural Ireland are the heart and soul of our rural communities and it is crucial that we revitalise these areas.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring will on Friday make €15 million available for the renewal of rural towns and villages in 2018.

The renewal scheme is a central plank of Mr Ring’s Action Plan for Rural Development and the funding will benefit up to 200 towns and villages throughout the State.

The Minister has put huge emphasis on schemes that will kick-start, or revive, economic activity in towns with populations of less than 20,000.

He wants more rural communities to follow the example of Skibbereen where the Ludgate digital hub has proved a huge success, or Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, where a food hub has proved a big centre of economic activity. The Ludgate centre now supports more than 30 businesses. Among the companies based in the Co Leitrim village are Gunpowder Gin, PJ Rigney whiskey and the Carrig Brewing company.

“The towns and villages of rural Ireland are the heart and soul of our rural communities and it is crucial that we revitalise these areas,” said Mr Ring, who believes dozens of Irish rural urban centres should have similar “hubs” acting as a catalyst for enterprise.

The latest spending comes on top of €30 million, which was awarded to more than 450 projects over the past two years.

“This year’s scheme will focus on measures which have a clear economic impact on rural towns and villages, to make them vibrant, welcoming centres for people to live and work and meet at a social level,” he said.

Local communities will apply for the funding through their councils, with funding up to €100,000 available for renewal or economic stimulation programmes. Mr Ring said that in exceptional cases, where a strong economic case had been made, grants of up to €200,000 may be awarded.