Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Today the Government launched Our Rural Future, a new plan for rural Ireland. It is an exciting day. The potential of this plan to transform rural communities throughout the country really is something of which to take note. The plan envisages more than 400 remote working hubs across regional towns and villages, co-working and hot-desking for public servants in regional towns, for the public sector to go to 20% remote working and for that figure to increase over the next five years.It also envisages encouraging the Industrial Development Authority, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta to promote this across their client base; funding the repurposing of vacant buildings in our rural town centres into remote working hubs to include rural pubs no longer be in use, or "hubs in pubs"; reviewing the tax arrangements for remote working in budget 2022 for employers and employees; legislation to give employees the right to request remote working; and funding our local authorities to run campaigns targeted in their areas to attract remote workers to their counties.
It is an exciting development for rural Ireland. It provides a long-term plan over the next five years and beyond to try to regenerate rural towns and villages decimated by depopulation. It will allow greater footfall and more residency in our towns and villages. We need people living in our towns and villages again. We are aware that rural people who have made the journey to live in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway would love the opportunity to go back home, once there are employment opportunities. Why should they not be there?
The only silver lining of this pandemic is that it has accelerated the pace at which we, the State, will provide the opportunity and choice for our citizens to work in the areas they live and are from. We will no longer have a situation in which young people are forced to leave the communities they were born and reared in to seek employment in our cities because there are no opportunities where they are. I have no doubt smaller businesses, the SME sector, and the tourism and retail sectors in smaller towns and villages will be encouraged by this plan because it means more people living near their businesses and more business and footfall for them.
The plan's reach knows no bounds. If it is delivered, as envisaged, it will be transformative. It will be incumbent on every public representative to get behind the plan and over the coming years to ensure it is delivered in a fair and balanced way so that every town, village and county gets its equal and fair share. I will be strongly advocating for my county, County Mayo, to see its fair share of the investment and opportunity our rural future plan can bring.