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Written Answers. - Community Development.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 432. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the extent of his work to date in revitalising rural and urban communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24782/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Deputy will be aware that my Department was established in June of this year and brings together functions previously under the auspices of five different Government Departments. These include community and local development, co-ordination of the national drugs strategy, volunteering,the community applications of information technology or CAIT initiative, programmes for revitalising areas by planning, investment and development or RAPID and rural development, including Leader, CLÁR, INTERREG, the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and the Western Development Commission.

Accordingly, a considerable proportion of my Department's work to date has involved the continuation of these schemes and programmes of work, together with the identification of priorities for the coming years. My Department's statement [1168] of strategy for the years 2003-05 is now being finalised for my consideration and I anticipate publishing this document early in the new year.

The main programmes for addressing the revitalisation of rural and urban communities are as follows. The CLÁR or Ceantair Laga Ard Riachtanais programme was launched in 2000 to address rural areas of special disadvantage. The CLÁR programme fast tracks NDP spending in the selected areas. Following the launch, I engaged in a public consultation process involving meetings with interests such as local authority management and the county development boards in the selected areas, followed by public meetings. In this way, I could identify the needs of the communities and establish how the people of each region could benefit most from the programme. Priority investments, as identified by the communities, cover infrastructure, social and community services.

In tandem with the public consultation process, I held an interdepartmental committee meeting with all relevant Departments. Subsequent bilateral meetings took place with these Departments and some State agencies. A further series of these meetings is now in progress, though not yet with the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Public meetings have also commenced in the selected areas to provide an update on developments under the programme.

The priorities identified in the selected areas are being dealt with in the following measures: non-national roads, class 111 roads, LIS roads, group water schemes, group sewerage schemes, small public water schemes, urban enhancement scheme, village enhancement scheme, bilingual signage scheme, sports capital grant scheme, major and minor capital health projects, telecommunications islands 3 phase, electricity for small industries, Gaeltacht top-ups for sports and community facilities, community initiatives of a capital nature. The Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment for annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis at NUI Maynooth has recently completed its analysis of the 2002 population census and my Department is examining the results in the context of the review of the areas in the CLÁR programme.

The work of the Western Development Commission, including the administration of the western investment fund, also contributes to the revitalisation of rural areas in the western region.

Leader is the EU Union initiative for rural development that provides approved local action groups with public funding, EU and national, to implement multi-sectoral business plans for the development of their own areas. Leader in the period to the end of 2006 is being delivered in two ways. The broad themes are: the use of new technologies to help increase the competitiveness of products and services in rural areas; improvement of the quality of life in rural areas; adding [1169] value to local products and facilitating access to markets for small production units. Aid under both programmes may take the form of support for the following measures: training analysis and development of innovative rural enterprises, craft enterprises and local services-facilities; exploitation of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products; enhancement of natural-built-social-cultural environment; environmentally friendly initiatives; animation and capacity building.

Nationwide, 35 local action groups and three collective bodies were selected by the Government to implement the new programmes. As Minister of State with responsibility for rural development at that time, I launched the programmes and signed contract agreements with the groups on 6 November 2001. Groups from that date began accepting applications for funding. The Leader programmes are now fully operational and projects are now being implemented in all local areas.

The PEACE II and INTERREG IIIA Ireland-Northern Ireland programmes focus on the Border counties and, through the rural development measures of these programmes, on the regeneration of rural communities that have been affected by the conflict. These programmes foster peace and reconciliation and focus on strengthening the rural economy through economic development in the communities affected by the conflict and in disadvantaged cross Border areas.

Strand II of the RAPID programme, the provincial towns strand, was launched in February 2002. Lead responsibility for strand II of the programmetransferred to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs from the Department of the Environment and Local Government in July 2002. Twenty towns around the country have been selected for priority attention under strand II of the programme. Local area implementation teams have been established. Plans, in consultation with the relevant line Departments with responsibilities for various programmes, for example, health, housing, education, etc. and with the support of ADM Limited, have been prepared. These initial plans were submitted to the national co-ordinator in ADM Ltd. in mid-October. Proposals from these plans were forwarded to the relevant Departments for consideration in early November 2002.

The community development programmeaims to mobilise the capacity of disadvantaged communities to participate in mainstream local development, training and education, enterprise and employment opportunities, as well as having a strong focus on influencing policy and working for change at regional and national level. It also provides support for smaller scale self help work in specific target groups that experience disadvantage – disadvantaged women and men, lone parents, Travellers, etc. – to articulate their point of view and participate in a process of personal and community development. Groups eligible to apply for grants under this programme include voluntary organisations and locally based [1170] community and family support groups. The programme has been included in the national development plan as sub-measures in the social inclusion measures in both the south and east and the BMW regional operational programmes.

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