Monday, 15 February 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
I thank the Acting Chairperson, Senator Warfield, and congratulate him on taking the Chair. I thank Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, for taking on my Commencement matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. This matter is about the provision of funding under the rural regeneration and development fund for the Drumlish go green centre application in Longford.
First, I acknowledge that it was Fine Gael in government that introduced this fund during the last term to help stimulate rural economies. There have been three successful applications in County Longford over the last couple of years. Project Ireland 2040 aims to make cities, towns and villages more attractive and liveable and offer a quality of life, which more people will be willing to choose in the years ahead. It references reversing town-village and rural population decline by encouraging new roles and functions for buildings, streets and sites supporting the sustainable growth of rural economies and communities. This project aims to address these and numerous other objectives by ensuring the reimagining of the existing community centre to deliver an expanded role within the community of Drumlish, allowing the local people to live and work locally while encouraging climate adaption. The core objective of this is to create a flagship project by developing Drumlish into a competitive, low-carbon climate resilient and environmentally sustainable town through the redevelopment of the centre as a flagship green-energy building. The building will also be used to showcase low-energy technologies and act as a training centre, which will be open to communities throughout the midlands, on reducing energy consumption in association with Longford warmer homes, among others.
Significant consultation took place over the last number of years, which started with the establishment of the town team by my colleague, Councillor Paraic Brady, which led to the formation of the area development group. The redevelopment of the centre emerged as a key priority along with the need to create economic opportunities for the local community, such as providing a remote working space and opportunities for innovation and collaboration. The town has experienced significant population increases in recent years. There was a 58% increase between 2006 and 2016. However, the supporting infrastructure to facilitating the retention of employment in the area has not followed. This project is expected to bring five direct jobs in the development and management of the centre, as well as space for five dedicated remote working places, additional meeting and training facilities and increased usability for music, dance and art. The centre is located next door to the local national school, St. Mary's, which utilises its facilities. Mulleady's waste and recycling centre is located two miles from the town and will collaborate with promoters, which include Longford County Council, Drumlish Community Centre Group, the Drumlish-Ballinamuck Area Development Group, and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, to deliver greater sustainable community goals. This will be done by working together to develop school education programmes, information awareness, workshops and practical demonstrations.
This project plans to support the community's transition to a low-carbon society by creating a new vision for Drumlish. This application aligns with national, regional and local policy, and fully delivers on the policy priorities of the current funding call of economic development and addressing climate change. It will be transformational, not only for Drumlish, but for the wider county of Longford and, indeed, parts of Cavan and Leitrim. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that this project is made a priority for Government funding.