Increased funding sought for community-led rural initiatives

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has been called on by the Social Democrats to expand funding streams and “put trust in communities” with a new community-led initiative for rural areas.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Social Democrat spokesperson on rural and community development, Holly Cairns, called on Minister Ring to expand current rural and community funding streams, with a focus on inclusive public spaces.

The Covid-19 emergency has highlighted disparities between the amount of community and outdoor social spaces in cities compared to rural Ireland, according to the Social Democrats.

Commenting, deputy Cairns said: “While I welcome the department’s Rural Development Investment Programme, I would like to see more ambitious funding.

€30 million does not cover the amount required to ensure social infrastructure in all towns and villages. We need the department to commit to funding footpath creation / road upgrades and community-led public spaces that can be enjoyed by people living in our rural areas.

“As we are moving out of lockdown through our phases, it is becoming very evident that the towns and villages of rural Ireland need better outdoor spaces.”

Highlighting that Covid-19 has shown that, in Ireland, “community comes first”, the Cork TD added that the Government “needs to respond in the same way”.

“We need a new community-led initiative to create inclusive social infrastructure and public spaces. We need projects that will foster community well-being, while also helping local businesses and encouraging tourism.

Biodiverse parks can educate children and provide space for exercise and socialising. Inclusive design of streets will enable older people and people with disabilities to feel safe and welcome.

Calling for a move away from the matched funding model, the deputy said: “The department needs to invest and put trust in communities, who know what is best for their own area.

“Participative decision-making and subsidiarity will enhance active communities and local democracy,” deputy Cairns concluded.