‘There is a small army out there making a living out of talking down rural Ireland’

It has been said recently that “there is a small army of people that are making a living out of talking down rural Ireland”.

The comments came from the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, as he was speaking at a rural affairs meeting at last weekend’s Fine Gael ard fheis.

Minister Ring added: “The type of negativity they specialise in gets us nowhere and we have a responsibility to stop them. You can take it from me that rural Ireland is alive and well.”

He continued to explain why he believes this saying: “Since the Government was formed in 2016, 58% of new jobs created have been outside of Dublin and the latest CSO figures show that employment has grown in every region in the country.”

He also outlined that the population of rural Ireland is growing steadily: “According to ‘Census 2016’ there are now 1.74 million people living in rural areas; up from 1.5 million people 20-years-ago.”

He acknowledged that rural communities suffered greatly during the recession and noted that it takes longer for the recovery to reach rural Ireland.

This is why my department of rural and community development was established. Through the department, the Government has vastly increased investment in rural communities.

Minister Ring called on people to “listen to the funding levels”.

He said: “I am tired of reading local papers around the country to see people criticising what has not been invested in rural Ireland and I am now going to tell you now what has been invested in rural Ireland.”

Minister Ring outlined some of the rural funding he allocated:
  • Agricultural Show funding: €600,000 in 2018;
  • Mens’ Sheds: €500,000 in July 2018;
  • Leader Programme: 1,300 projects approved to the value of €43.4 million;
  • The Town and Village Renewal Scheme: €53 million, 675 projects since 2016;
  • Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme: €23 million, 500 projects since 2016;
  • The Clar Programme: €25 million 1,200 projects since 2016;
  • Local Improvement Scheme: €38 million delivered since 2016;
  • The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme: (SICAP) €190 million 2018-2022;
  • Community Enhancement Programme: €12.5 million;
  • Community Services Programme: €44 million, 400 organisations benefited;
  • Senior Alert Scheme: €10.5 million in 2018, 13,000 people benefited;
  • Rural Generation Scheme: €1 billion over 10 years.

Continuing, Minister Ring added that there were more projects that received funding also.

He reiterated that there are increasing numbers of people working and living in rural Ireland.

We have to stop the negativity of people always giving out that there is nothing happening in rural Ireland; there is a lot happening in rural Ireland.

He added that the party have a positive message for rural Ireland and are putting “lots of funding into rural Ireland”.

Minister Ring concluded: “What I will say to the people out there being negative all the time about rural Ireland is I see the glass half full and I see a bright future for rural Ireland.”