Seanad debates

Monday, 15 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

10:30 am

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The rural regeneration and development fund was established under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 to provide investment for ambitious projects in towns and villages, and outlying areas, with a population of less than 10,000, which will deliver on the national strategic objective of strengthening rural economies and communities, and which achieve sustainable economic and social development in these areas. To date, the fund has provided €166 million for 139 projects across Ireland, worth a total of €237 million.Projects that have been allocated funding to date include town and village regeneration; enterprise and development; tourism and development; digital and co-working initiatives; libraries; and community facilities. Many projects are delivering across a number of sectors, for instance, providing libraries, co-working facilities or much-needed community facilities in repurposed town centre sites or previously unused heritage buildings. To date, over half of the projects supported have had a strong focus on regeneration, ensuring that our rural towns and villages, and the communities and businesses within them, will benefit from returning footfall.

In that regard, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and I believe the projects completed with the assistance of the fund will deliver significant impacts across rural Ireland, supporting sustainable communities, economic development and job creation that will help to deliver on the long-standing goal of rebalancing growth throughout the regions. In addition, the investment provided will support rural Ireland in addressing the challenges arising from Covid-19. It will provide a much-needed stimulus for the economy in rural areas, while also putting in place the necessary facilities to ensure rural towns, villages and communities can have the opportunity to recover and prosper over the months and years ahead.

As Senators will be aware, the third call for category 1 applications to the fund closed on 1 December. Category 1 relates to large-scale ambitious capital projects with all necessary planning and other consents in place and ready to proceed. Considering the circumstances prevailing, this category 1 call had a strong economic focus, with one of the main goals being to ensure the investment provided can act as a key driver for economic recovery in the post Covid-19 environment. Another key focus was, once again, regeneration in towns and villages, with a view to driving greater economic activity and footfall, addressing dereliction and ensuring the reuse of buildings.

The response from rural Ireland was excellent. Some 66 applications were received in response to this call from communities throughout the country, including Drumlish, as Senator Carrigy noted. All the proposals have been planned and developed to meet the key needs, opportunities and expectations of their respective communities. As Senator Carrigy will also be aware, the application process for the fund is competitive in nature. The applications submitted in December are being assessed by the project advisory board, comprised of independent experts and representatives from key Departments. I understand that arising from this process, the Minister will be furnished with a report detailing the projects which are recommended for funding. She will make the final decisions in that regard at that juncture. The Minister hopes to make an announcement to this effect at the end of March or the beginning of April. I will convey the Senator's views on Drumlish to her. I know it is a good project and Councillor Paraic Brady and Senator Carrigy are doing huge work in articulating its merits for the community. As the Senator has pointed out, it knits into St. Mary's Mixed National School and the wider area. It will be a major driver in the area and I expect and hope for a positive outcome.


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