To date, €86 million has been allocated from the Action Plan for Rural Development to 84 projects across the country. The action plan will continue to be delivered through to the end of this year and the Department of Rural and Community Development is currently working on the next phase of the policy to succeed the action plan.

These were the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, during Dáil proceedings last week after he was asked by deputy Dara Calleary about the progress made regarding the implementation of the Action Plan for Rural Development to date.

I know I will get one version from Minister Ring – which will be different to the reality on the ground – but perhaps we will have a discussion on the real activities in the Action Plan for Rural Development.

Callery continued: “I know the glass will be half full as it always is with the minister – but let’s give it a go.”

Meanwhile, Minister Ring pointed out that a number of consultation workshops have taken place around the country to obtain stakeholder input into rural development policy.

He also highlighted the fact that he has invited the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development to provide an input on the new policy.

Progress report

The minister went on to say that progress reports on the implementation of the action plan are published twice yearly on the department’s website with the most recent having been published earlier this month.

It shows that 268 of the 277 actions reported on were either completed on schedule or substantially advanced.

Minister Ring continued: “The cross-departmental approach of the action plan is benefiting rural areas in many ways. For example, since 2015, there has been an increase of more than 146,000 in the number of people employed in regions outside of Dublin – surpassing the Government’s target of 135,000 extra jobs by 2020.

Last year, more than 60% of the new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies were outside the Dublin region and 58% of employment in IDA client companies is now based outside of Dublin.

He then pointed to the “level of investment” being made in rural Ireland and to the thousands of projects that have been supported by his department since early 2017.

“The progress made under the action plan has been further built on in Project Ireland 2040 – in particular through the rural regeneration and development fund – which will provide €1 billion in investment in rural Ireland over the period 2019 to 2027,” Minister Ring concluded.