Rural development plan is a ‘step in the right direction’

IFA says plan needs proper funding, while ICMSA says it must go beyond ‘appearances’

Farming and business groups broadly welcomed the Government’s rural development plan but stressed that it had to be properly funded.

The Irish Farmers' Association said arresting the decline of rural areas required investment. While the plan was was an important step towards revitalising rural Ireland, said the group's president, Joe Healy, "it must be resourced with sufficient funding."

Central to the revitalisation project was the task of making rural areas more attractive to live and invest in.

“Many areas need a good infrastructure, including the provision of a fast broadband service. This will help the strong entrepreneurial spirit that exists in rural Ireland. The roll-out of the national broadband network to all areas must be a priority,” Mr Healy added.


Modest aims

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association

also welcomed the plan but said it must go beyond “appearances” to have any effect. Its president,

John Comer

, said that while the document seemed to focus on relatively modest aims, it signalled “a long-overdue reversal of policy that had denuded rural districts of employment and commercial opportunity.”

The plan, largely a consolidation of previous commitments, was welcomed by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, which pointed out that the economic downturn had been particularly visible in rural Ireland and had caused the closure of many family-run businesses.

“This action plan is a step in the right direction for rural Ireland, injecting a much-needed boost to our towns and villages,” said the organisation’s chief executive, Neil McDonnell.

Domestic economy

With Brexit changing the business environment, he said, Government needed to look at the potential of the domestic economy, particularly in rural Ireland. He pointed to the Wild Atlantic Way as a successful example of such thinking.

In its response, Chambers Ireland described the plan as an important indication of Government’s commitment to the rural economy. If this and other rural regeneration schemes were implemented, it would allow rural businesses to grow and develop.

"Initiatives such as the Regional Action Plans for Jobs and the development of an Atlantic Economic Corridor have the potential to prove transformational for the economic development of the regions, but they will require a sustained focus from policy-makers and significant capital investment over the coming years if they are to prove effective," said Chambers chief executive Ian Talbot.