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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 245-266
 Header Item Community Development Projects
 Header Item Community Services Programme
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Ministerial Travel
 Header Item Community Development Initiatives
 Header Item Community Development Initiatives
 Header Item Community Development Initiatives
 Header Item Ministerial Priorities
 Header Item Job Creation
 Header Item Island Communities
 Header Item Rural Development Programme
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Rural Development Plan

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 245-266

Community Development Projects

 245. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if feasibility study funding will be provided for a strategic project (details supplied) in County Kerry; when a decision will be announced in relation to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24534/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department does not appear to have received an application from the project in question. 

  If the Deputy wishes to provide my office with further details of the application and the programme under which the application was made, I will be happy to look further into the Deputy's query.

Community Services Programme

 246. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if there is a review of the community services programme ongoing; if so, when it will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24538/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien The Community Services Programme, or CSP, supports more than 400 community organisations, to provide local services through a social enterprise model with funding provided as a contribution to the cost of an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) and a manager, where warranted.  

In 2019, Indecon International Economic Consultants were commissioned by my Department to carry out an independent review of the Programme which has been completed. The final report has been received by my Department and is under currently under consideration. I expect to publish the report in the coming weeks.

LEADER Programmes

 247. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if further administration, project and animation funding will be provided to the LAGs administering Leader for the years from 2021 until a new Leader programme is in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24539/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The LEADER Programme is co-funded by the European Commission under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current programming period concludes in December 2020.

Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-2027 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission.  However, given the nature of the discussions on the CAP and the wider EU Budget post-2020, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals.  This means that the next LEADER programme will not now commence until January 2022 at the earliest.

As a result of the delays in agreeing new CAP regulations, the European Commission has published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between the programming periods of 2014-2020 and 2021-2027.

The transitional regulation is still under negotiation and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved over the coming months, including the duration of the transitional period.

The Programme for Government includes a provision to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next programme.  Decisions relating to funding for projects, administration and animation costs until the new LEADER programme is operational will be taken in the coming months having regard, inter alia, to any transitional arrangements that may be agreed at European level.

LEADER Programmes

 248. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if it is planned to provide animation funding to the LAGs under new Leader round to encourage more community involvement in the Leader programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24540/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys LEADER is an EU-funded programme which adopts a Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) approach to the delivery of rural development interventions, underpinned by a Local Development Strategy for the particular LEADER area.

In June 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a draft Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) for the next programming period, 2021-2027.  The draft regulation is similar to the current CPR, with a strong emphasis on community involvement in the development of Local Development Strategies, and capacity building with local communities to identify suitable projects which are in line with the objectives of that Strategy.

As the Deputy will be aware, the current LEADER programme runs to the end of this year.  Given the delay at EU level in agreeing the EU Budget for the post-2020 period, the next LEADER programme will not now commence until January 2022 at the earliest.

The Programme for Government includes a provision to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next programme.  Decisions relating to funding for project, administration and animation costs until the new LEADER programme is operational will be taken in the coming months having regard, inter alia, to any transitional arrangements that may be agreed at European level.

Ministerial Travel

 249. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to visit west Connemara and Inishbofin island in the near future; if so, if she will visit organisations (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24541/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Subject to public health guidelines, I hope to visit a number of rural areas, including the off-shore islands, over the coming months in my capacity as Minister for Rural and Community Development.

  I note the organisations in Connemara which the Deputy suggests I might visit and I will bear these in mind.

  Question No. 250 answered with Question No. 27.

Community Development Initiatives

 251. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans for interaction with local community groups dedicated to improving their respective locations in urban and rural areas nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24558/20]

 253. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the extent to which she plans to liaise with local community based organisations with a view to actions likely to lead to improvement in quality of life in both urban and rural areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24560/20]

 255. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the degree to which she plans to engage with community groups with a view to identifying particular needs in urban and rural area and putting in place remedial measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24562/20]

 261. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the structures she plans to liaise with and respond to the requirements as experienced in various areas, urban and rural nationwide that have suffered economically in recent times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24568/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 251, 253, 255 and 261 together.

My Department's mission is “To promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland."

A key part of achieving this mission is ongoing engagement with a wide range of stakeholders regarding the Department's policies, programmes and supports so that we deliver outcomes that positively impact the quality of life of those living and working in our communities.

These stakeholders include groups involved in rural development, the community and voluntary sector, smaller local community groups and organisations, other Government Departments and the statutory bodies under the aegis of the Department.

Communicating with these stakeholders assists in identifying areas relevant to the work of the Department where supports or funding are required and the most appropriate remedial or proactive measures that can be taken in response.

One example of proactive interaction with communities was the delivery in 2019, in conjunction with Pobal, of a series of 'Helping Hands' events nationwide last year, to engage with communities and create awareness and understanding of funding programmes. Feedback from these interactions was very positive, and it is hoped that similar events could be scheduled in the future when permitted by public safety advice.

In addition to informal engagement, submissions are also encouraged from all such bodies, where appropriate, in relation to consultation processes held by my Department. This will shortly include the opportunity for individuals and groups to make submissions regarding a new Statement of Strategy, which is currently in development.

The Department has continued to engage proactively with its stakeholders during the COVID crisis through various on line means. This engagement has helped deliver solutions including additional funding to address challenges being faced by those in communities and their representative groups at this time.

Community Development Initiatives

 252. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the degree to which she plans to disperse funds from her Department to eligible groups nationwide, with particular reference to areas in need of rejuvenation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24559/20]

 260. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to reward community activity in such a way as to generate improved economic activity in both urban and rural areas faced with particular difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24567/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 260 together.

  The Department for Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to support the creation of vibrant and sustainable communities across this country. My Department delivers a coherent package of supports to strengthen and rejuvenate rural and urban communities. These supports enable economic growth and development and also support communities to address gaps in meeting social needs, including those caused by higher levels of deprivation.  The Department delivers funding support for rejuvenation of areas across the following three programmes:

  Rural Development Investment Programme-€149.7m. These programmes include; Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), LEADER Programme, Town and Village Renewal Scheme, Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme (ORIS), Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) and the CLÁR Programme

  Community Funding Programmes-€153.9m. These programmes include; Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), Community Services Programme (CSP), Community Enhancement Programme (CEP), PEACE IV, Public library funding, Dormant Accounts Funding. This funding also supports communities faced with difficulties due to marginalization and isolation.

  The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme   has been tailored to focus on interventions that can support the economic and social recovery of our rural towns and villages, to generate improved economic activity and assist them in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Car parking improvements expressly designed to encourage increased footfall in town centres and that deliver a benefit to the community as a whole are included among the activities that are eligible for funding.

  The July Stimulus Package provided an additional €10 million of funding that allowed for the expansion of the Scheme and brought the total funding available for the Scheme this year to €25 million. This funding will provide funding for more projects in rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19. A total of €6.1m has been approved for 226 projects to date in 2020 with additional successful projects due to be announced in due course. The closing date for the Standard Town and Village Renewal Scheme is 30th September 2020 with communities being encouraged to submit their applications through their Local Authority by that date.

  The Community Enhancement Programme, was launched in 2018 to address disadvantage in urban and rural communities. The 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) with funding of €2m, launched in June.  Additionally, a further €5m from the July stimulus package, was launched by the Department in August 2020, under the CEP for community centres and community buildings.

  Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to providing €1 billion for a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over the period 2019 to 2027. Initial funding of €315m was secured over the period 2019 to 2022.  This represents an unprecedented commitment by Government to strengthen our rural economies and communities. The objective of the Fund is to support collaborative, coordinated and complementary packages of investment between Departments, agencies, Local Authorities and other public bodies, to pool their assets and work with communities to generate improved economic activity, transforming our rural towns and villages and their outlying areas. The Fund provides an unprecedented opportunity to make a significant impact on rural communities which will transform rural Ireland for the better and shows that the Government understands the need for proper investment in rural Ireland.

  The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. Under the 2020 programme a “Schools/Community Safety Measure” is being funded. This may fund the provision of safety related infrastructure in the environs of a school or community space such as lighting, car park and footpath upgrades and digital speed safety signs. The CLÁR programme 2020, launched at the end of May, closed for applications under these measures at the end of August last. The applications received are now being assessed and it is hoped to announce successful projects by November.

  The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is worth €190m over five years to the end of 2022. My Department funds Local Development Companies to work with disadvantaged individuals and groups, offering service users an integrated range of supports i.e. Lifelong Learning and Training; CV and Interview Preparation; Personal Development Courses; Self-Employment training; Business Planning and Budgeting Supports and helping them onto a work placement programme such as CE or T?s.

  The Community Services Programme,   provides funding to organisations delivering services in disadvantaged communities. More than €46m is available to support community organisations under the programme in 2020.

  In addition, since its establishment, my Department also relaunched the Local Improvement Scheme for private rural roads and laneways.

  My Department published the 1st National Policy on Social Enterprise in 2019.   Social enterprises play an important role in creating jobs, in investing in people, and in supporting communities.

  The Strategy to Support the Community & Voluntary Sector in Ireland Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities   sets out a long-term vision for our communities in Ireland. The Strategy sets a general direction for Government policy in relation to community development, local development and the community and voluntary sectors for the next five years and beyond. I was delighted funding in the 2020 Budget Allocations supports the implementation of the actions detailed in the Strategy.  This will include enhanced supports for the structures which drive local engagement in decision making – the Public Participation Networks and the Local Community Development Committees.

  The Action Plan for Rural Development which had cross-Departmental delivery, reached the end of its three-year timeframe at the end of 2019. The Forthcoming Policy for Rural Development 2020-2025 builds on the Action Plan for Rural Development, but with a more forward-looking approach to the policies, programmes and structures needed to embed economic and social development in rural areas and underscore the interdependence of urban and rural areas in national economic, social and cultural recovery.  DRCD is leading on ensuring strong coherence across key Government policies to ensure that rural communities and economies are in a strong position to:

  - adapt to future challenges e.g. changing demographics within rural communities, climate change adaptation, Brexit, post-COVID recovery, and to

  - take advantage of available opportunities (e.g. diversification of rural economies, new ways of working, increased Government investment targeted at balanced regional development).

  The Policy will deliver for rural Ireland in an integrated and strategic way across Government, with DRCD playing a central co-ordinating role.

  I am confident that these plans will propose actions that will support rural economic development and the local and the community development sectors who continue providing valuable needed services and supports to both urban and rural communities.

  In the present COVID environment the supports provided by my Department to assist communities is more important than ever. In this regard, my Department will continue to host online engagements with stakeholders on the short-term and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on rural areas and any consequential actions which need to be taken to assist the economic and social recovery of these areas.  These engagements will input into the development of the new rural policy for Ireland for 2020-2025 to be published shortly. 

  Question No. 253 answered with Question No. 251.

Community Development Initiatives

 254. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the steps she plans to take to address the social and economic needs of areas suffering from social deprivation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24561/20]

 256. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the extent to which she and her office have identified areas of social and economic deprivation in both urban and rural areas nationwide with a view to putting in place supportive measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24563/20]

 263. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to evaluate the emerging needs of urban Ireland with a view to coordinating measures to address imbalances or lack of opportunity arising from various reasons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24570/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 254, 256 and 263 together.

  The Department for Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to support the creation of vibrant and sustainable communities across this country.

  My Department has developed strategic interventions, funding programmes and schemes which target social inclusion in urban and rural areas nationwide. These supports enable economic growth and development and also support communities to address gaps in meeting social needs, including those caused by higher levels of deprivation. Those programmes include:

  The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a national programme that is delivered in both rural and urban areas by Local Development Companies (LDCs) to help those in the greatest need. SICAP aims to address high and persistent levels of deprivation through targeted and innovative, locally-led approaches. It targets and supports those who are disadvantaged in Irish society and less likely to use mainstream services. SICAP workers have extensive local connections and in-depth knowledge of available resources and supports in their area and are continuing to work to ensure the emerging needs of their locality are responded to. The response in each area differs as LDCs support local structures and needs rather than imposing general solutions. SICAP allocations to areas are informed by the Pobal Hasse Deprivation Index which measures the relative affluence or disadvantage of areas within the State. This ensures that the programme is targeting disadvantage fairly.

  The Community Services Programme (CSP)   Support Fund extended in 2019, provides funding to organisations finding it difficult to meet minimum wage obligations. 

  The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme   has been tailored to focus on interventions that can support the economic and social recovery of our rural towns and villages, and assist them in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

  The Dublin North East Inner City Initiative (NEIC) following on from the Mulvey Report, funds varied projects, from pilot drugs projects and social employment projects to community grants and events

  The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP), focuses on supporting groups in disadvantaged areas. 

  The CLÁR programme   provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. The CLÁR programme 2020, launched at the end of May (closed for applications under these measures at the end of August last). The applications received are now being assessed and it is hoped to announce successful projects by November.

  DRCD works closely with Local Community Development Committees, (LCDCs) who are a key element of the local authorities’ strengthened role in local development and community development as envisaged in the Local Government Reform Act 2014. Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) are also responsible for preparing the community elements of 6-year Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs).  These plans focus on measures which will enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of communities in both urban and rural settings.  This is done through a coordinated approach to planning and service delivery. Current LECPs are due for renewal in 2021/2022 and my Department will be supporting the Local Authorities and LCDCs to develop new LECPs. The LECP development process includes extensive public and stakeholder consultation.  

  In 2018, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund was launched as part of Project Ireland 2040 and this fund will provide €1 billion over the next 10 years. Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to providing €1billion for a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over the period 2019 to 2027. Initial funding of €315m was secured over the period 2019 to 2022.  This represents an unprecedented commitment by Government to strengthen our rural economies and communities. 

  In addition, since its establishment, my Department has also relaunched the Local Improvement Scheme for private rural roads and laneways.

  My Department's policy provides, for both urban and rural areas nationwide, an integrated and strategic way of delivering supports, programmes and schemes,  coordinating measures to address imbalances or lack of opportunity,  making a real difference to people’s lives. Those policies include:

  The 1st National Policy on Social Enterprise published in 2019.  Social enterprises play an important role in creating jobs, in investing in people, and in supporting communities.

The Strategy to Support the Community & Voluntary Sector in Ireland Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities   sets out a long-term vision for our communities in Ireland. The Strategy sets a general direction for Government policy in relation to community development, local development and the community and voluntary sectors for the next five years and beyond. I was delighted funding in the 2020 Budget Allocations supports the implementation of the actions detailed in the Strategy.  This will include enhanced supports for the structures which drive local engagement in decision making – the Public Participation Networks and the Local Community Development Committees.

  The Forthcoming Policy for Rural Development 2020-2025 builds on the Action Plan for Rural Development (Completed 2019), but with a more forward-looking approach to the policies, programmes and structures needed to embed economic and social development in rural areas and underscore the interdependence of urban and rural areas in national economic, social and cultural recovery.   DRCD is leading on ensuring strong coherence across key Government policies to ensure that rural communities and economies are in a strong position to:

  - adapt to future challenges e.g. changing demographics within rural communities, climate change adaptation, Brexit, post-COVID recovery, and to

  - take advantage of available opportunities (e.g. diversification of rural economies, new ways of working, increased Government investment targeted at balanced regional development).

  In the present COVID environment the supports provided by my Department to assist vulnerable communities is more important than ever. In this regard, my Department will continue to host online engagements with stakeholders on the short-term and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on rural areas and any consequential actions which need to be taken to assist the economic and social recovery of these areas.  These engagements will input into the development of the new rural policy for Ireland for 2020-2025 to be published shortly. 

  Question No. 255 answered with Question No. 251.

  Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 254.

Ministerial Priorities

 257. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her priorities for rural development in the coming months and years; the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address issues that have arisen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24564/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My priority for rural Ireland is to develop and publish a new 5-year Policy for Rural Development in the coming months.

The new Policy will reflect a whole-of-Government approach to supporting the economic, social and cultural development of rural Ireland.  It will be forward-looking, ambitious and will seek to highlight and foster the interdependence between urban and rural areas.

The new Policy will address the short-term and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on rural communities and economies.  It will support the Government’s overarching objective of getting people back to work, but it will also consider a wide range of other linked issues such as the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan, optimising the use of digital connectivity, the opportunities presented by climate adaptation, and supporting island and coastal communities.

The development of the policy is at an advanced stage, informed by an extensive consultation process with a wide range of stakeholders.  I hope to publish the policy in the final quarter of this year.

The new policy will be underpinned by my Department’s Rural Development Investment Programme which includes schemes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, and CLÁR.  

We will continue to build on these, and other investments for rural Ireland, not just within my own Department, but across other Departments also, recognising the importance of rural Ireland to our national development.

Job Creation

 258. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to encourage job creation in rural areas nationwide; the degree to which she has in mind specific targets in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24565/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural development policy, which will set out measures to support the economic and social needs of rural areas over the period 2020-2025, including actions to support employment in rural areas.  As was the case with the Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019 which I published in 2017, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.

One of the key objectives of the Action Plan was to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas. The coordinated approach of the Plan contributed to increased employment in the regions and increased investment in projects and communities across the country. 

Overall employment in the regions increased to over 146,000 people employed outside of Dublin between 2015 and 2018.  This surpassed the Government’s target of increasing employment outside of Dublin by 135,000 by 2020.

66% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2019 were outside the Dublin region, while 57% of jobs created by IDA Ireland’s client companies have now been created outside of the Dublin region.

The Regional Enterprise Plans, overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, play a particularly important role in supporting job creation in the regions.  My own Department also contributes directly to job creation in rural areas through programmes such the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and LEADER.  LEADER is a multi-annual programme which has a budget of €250 million over the period to 2020 and has a job creation target of 3,100 over the lifetime of the programme.

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide investment of €1 billion into rural areas over the period 2019-2027.  These projects will have a transformational effect on towns, villages and rural areas across Ireland and further support job creation.

Island Communities

 259. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to address issues affecting the inhabitants and their quality of life on the islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24566/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to support their social, economic and cultural development.  There has already been a large amount of consultation with island communities in relation to the development of this policy under Minister Catherine Martin’s Department, and this consultation will continue as the islands function transfers to the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The process is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee which met on a number of occasions in 2019. 

Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials had been engaged in a process of consultation with island communities through public meetings on the islands in order to facilitate community input to the policy development process.  In order to further progress this process on those islands that have not been visited, officials are working with island representatives to obtain their input and to establish focus groups. 

On completion of the consultation process with the island communities, officials will consult with other stakeholders, and with the Inter-Departmental Committee, with a view to developing a draft policy paper.

In relation to island transport, ensuring that the island communities have access to reliable transport and cargo links is of paramount importance to my Department.  Currently here are 26 separate contracts in place to ensure that island communities have reliable, year round cargo, passenger and air services. These services provide life-line support for the island populations in terms of providing mainland access while also supporting local economies through the tourism sector.

In 2019 alone, these services carried 523,828 ferry and bus passengers, 31,100 air passengers and 26,351 tonnes of cargo to the offshore islands.

I should also point out that a total funding package of €2 million was approved by the Government under the July Stimulus Package aimed at accelerating capital works programmes on the islands.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Departmental officials have worked closely with island representative groups, passenger, air and cargo operators to ensure that the offshore island communities have adequate levels of services and supports available to them.  

My Department will continue to engage with all island stakeholders and relevant health authorities to ensure that the services it provides continue to support the needs of the islanders while adhering to the advice of the HSE.

  Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 252.

  Question No. 261 answered with Question No. 251.

Rural Development Programme

 262. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the extent to which she has evaluated issues affecting rural Ireland such as isolation and lack of connectivity with a view to making a positive contribution in line with local requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24569/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Connectivity, whether in terms of transport, in-person social contact or through communications networks, is important in ensuring the wellbeing and cohesion of our rural communities.

  Many of my Department's policies and funding programmes aim to address isolation in rural and urban communities and respond to the additional challenges facing vulnerable individuals as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

  My Department’s key interventions in this regard include:

  - The Seniors Alert Scheme which enables older people to live with peace of mind in their homes through the provision of personal monitored alarms.  

  - The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) which is Ireland’s primary social inclusion funding intervention to help those in greatest need to access supports to enable their participation in communities.

  - As part of the Department’s COVID-19 Action Plan, increased support was provided for older people through the Department’s funding partnership with ALONE for their crisis telephone support line and follow-up supports for those who needed it.

  My Department is also currently establishing a network of approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) in remote rural areas across the State where the public can access reliable high-speed broadband.   The BCPs are located in centres of community life such as sports clubs, community centres and libraries.

  Many of the BCPs will provide remote working and study facilities, but the owners and managers of these sites are also making space available for community use, creative activities, learning and training.

  In the long-term, it is envisaged that BCPs’ services will become part of the standard community resource offering.  By meeting the need for remote working space or access to on-line services, the BCPs will meet the very real and immediate needs of many rural dwellers.

  Question No. 263 answered with Question No. 254.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 264. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of approved and rejected applications from counties Laois and Offaly to the town and village renewal scheme including the accelerated measure strand in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24314/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was tailored to focus on interventions that can assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  The scheme includes an Accelerated Measure which will enable towns and villages to introduce initiatives immediately to support increased footfall and encourage people to shop and socialise safely in accordance with public health guidelines.  Approvals under the Measure will be made under three funding rounds.

   Successful projects under Round 1 and Round 2 of the Accelerated Measure have recently been announced, with a total of €6.1 million being approved for 226 projects.  Not all applications submitted met the minimum scoring criteria for funding and my officials would be happy to provide feedback to the relevant Local Authority should it be required.

  Applications under Round 3 of the Accelerated Measure are currently being assessed, as are applications from Large Towns who were permitted to apply as an exceptional measure this year. 

  Details of the applications received under the Accelerated Measure for Co Laois and Co Offaly are provided on the Tables 1 and 2 below:

   Table 1:  T&V Accelerated Measures Applications received for Co Laois.

County Applications Received Applications  Refused Applications Approved
Co Laois Round 1 5 1 4
Co Laois Round 2 6 1 5
Total 11 2 9


  Table 2:  T&V Accelerated Measures Applications received for Co Offaly
County Applications Received Applications Refused Applications Approved
Co Offaly Round 1 5 2 3
Co Offaly Round 2 6 0 6
Total 11 2 9
 

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 265. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the proposed plan outlined in the Programme for Government to expand the town and village renewal scheme to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and promote residential occupancy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24679/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government includes a commitment for an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and promote residential occupancy.

In October 2018, my Department launched a Town Centre Living Initiative to explore in a holistic way how to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages.  The pilot focused on 6 towns with different characteristics in different parts of the country. 

An independent report on the pilot Town Centre Living Initiative was published on 22nd June 2020.  The report outlines the approach taken by each town under the pilot and sets out the key issues identified to encourage increased town centre living and the repurposing of vacant properties for residential purposes. 

The report, which is available on the Gov.ie website, highlights the multiplicity of factors that need to be addressed which cut across a number of Government Departments and agencies.  

It also highlights the importance of Local Authorities consulting with local communities and property owners on town centre development proposals and the value of developing a shared vision or master plan for the town. 

Programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and can provide funding for projects which emerge from this process, subject to meeting the required criteria and the quality of the proposals.

In this context, my Department is examining how the Town and Village Renewal Scheme can be further focused to support town centre living in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Rural Development Plan

 266. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of new positions developed of the 135,000 new jobs by 2020 which was the aim in Realising our Rural Potential-Action Plan for Rural Development 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24680/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as a whole-of-Government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland.  The three-year Action Plan concluded at the end of 2017.

One of the objectives of the Action Plan was to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas.  The Plan's coordinated cross-Government approach contributed to increased employment in the regions and increased investment in projects and communities across the country. 

Between 2015 and 2018, employment in the regions increased by over 146,000 outside of Dublin, surpassing the Government’s target of increasing employment outside of Dublin by 135,000 by 2020.

The enterprise development agencies continue to provide a strong focus on growing regional employment. 66% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2019 were outside the Dublin region, while 57% of IDA Ireland’s client company jobs have been created outside of the Dublin region.

A number of Government initiatives continue to contribute to supporting regional employment. The Regional Enterprise Plans, overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, play a particularly important role in supporting job creation in the regions. 

My own Department also contributes to job creation in rural areas through programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and LEADER.  The €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will also support job creation in towns, villages and rural areas across Ireland to 2027.

My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural development policy, which will set out measures to support the economic and social needs of rural areas over the period 2020-2025, including policy actions to support employment in rural areas.  As was the case with the Action Plan for Rural Development, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.


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