The Action Plan for Rural Development was launched on Monday 23rd January 2017 by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD. The Action Plan is the first ever whole-of-government strategy aimed at delivering real change for people living and working in rural Ireland.
The Plan contains 276 actions across five key pillars, all of which aim to improve both the economic and social fabric of rural Ireland. The five pillars are:
- Supporting Sustainable Communities
- Supporting Enterprise and Employment
- Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential
- Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities
- Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity
Key actions under the Plan include:
- Supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020 by assisting indigenous businesses, investing €50m for collaborative approaches to job creation in the regions, and increasing Foreign Direct Investment in regional areas by up to 40%.
- Implementing a range of initiatives to rejuvenate over 600 rural and regional towns.
- Introducing a new pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in town and village centres.
- Assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development, tackle social exclusion and provide services to people living in remote areas.
- Increasing the number of visitors to rural Ireland by 12% in the next three years through targeted tourism initiatives, including increased promotion of Activity Tourism.
- Accelerating the preparation for the rollout of high-speed broadband and ensuring that all homes and businesses in rural Ireland are connected to broadband as early as possible.
- Increasing capital funding for flood risk schemes up to €80m per annum by 2019 and increasing to €100m per annum by 2021
- Improving job opportunities for young people in rural areas by increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
- Developing an Atlantic Economic Corridor to drive jobs and investment along the Western seaboard and contribute to more balanced regional development.
- Investing over €50 million in sports, recreation and cultural facilities throughout the country, including in rural areas.
- Protecting vital services in rural Ireland by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services and protecting rural schools.
- Introducing a range of measures to boost job creation in the Gaeltacht, including the creation of 1,500 new jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies by 2020 and the development of Innovation Hubs in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltacht regions to support entrepreneurship.
- Combating rural isolation by improving connectivity and enhancing supports for older people, including significant investment in the Senior Alert scheme.
- Building safer communities by providing a more visible, effective and responsive police service in rural areas through the recruitment of 3,200 new Garda members over the next four years to reach a strength of 15,000 members, and by introducing a new community CCTV Grant Aid Scheme.
- Examining the scope for increased investment in regional roads in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021
- Assessing and improving rural transport routes and developing new routes where necessary
- Delivering 18 new primary care centres in rural Ireland by end of 2018
- Investing €435m in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals in rural Ireland, up to 2021, creating up to 5,000 jobs during the construction phase
- Improving societal cohesion and wellbeing in rural communities by supporting cultural and artistic provision and participation.