Taoiseach Enda Kenny, visited Ballymahon on Monday this week to launch ‘Realising our Rural Potential: The Action Plan for Rural Development’.
The plan, the first ever whole-of-government strategy aimed at delivering real change for people living and working in rural Ireland, aims to rejuvenate more than 600 rural and regional towns around the country.
The objective of the plan is to unlock the potential of rural Ireland through a framework of supports at national and local level which will ensure that people who live in rural areas have increased opportunities for employment locally, and access to public services and social networks that support a high quality of life.
Key actions under the plan include supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020, investing €50m for collaborative approaches to job creation in the regions, and increasing foreign direct investment in regional areas by up to 40 per cent.
Improving job opportunities for young people in rural areas forms an important part of the plan. Part of this is focused on increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
The plan aims to increase the number of tourist visitors to rural Ireland by 12 per cent in the next three years through targeted tourism initiatives, including increased promotion of activity tourism. It is further hoped that developing an Atlantic Economic Corridor will drive jobs and investment along the Western seaboard and contribute to more balanced regional development.
Health initiatives include delivering 18 new primary care centres by the end of 2018, and the further investment of €435m in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals up to 2021. Vital services will be protected by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services, and protecting rural schools.
Accelerating the rollout of high-speed broadband and ensuring that all homes and businesses are connected as early as possible forms another significant part of the plan.
Social exclusion will be tackled with a number of measures. This includes providing services to people living in remote areas, improving connectivity and enhancing supports for older people, including significant investment in the Senior Alert scheme. Assessing and improving rural transport routes and developing new routes where necessary will also contribute to this aim.
The plan aims to build safer communities by providing a more visible, effective, and responsive police service in rural areas through the recruitment of 3,200 new Garda members in the next four years, and by introducing a new community CCTV Grant Aid Scheme.
Particularly important for Athlone readers, the plan aims to increase capital funding for flood risk schemes up to €80m per annum by 2019, rising to €100m per annum by 2021.
A further €50 million will be invested in sports, recreation, and cultural facilities throughout the country, and a new pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in town and village centres will also be introduced.
To view the full report visit www.ahrrga.gov.ie