Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, met with personnel from Westmeath County Council ahead of her visit to Moate last Thursday to launch the 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
The Minister met with director of services, Barry Kehoe, and key members of Westmeath County Council, including the newly established Culture Team and the broadband officer, to discuss issues facing rural communities in the county and how the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development can help maximise their potential.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Humphreys said: “Rural Ireland has so much to offer and I am keen that the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development enhances all aspects of life in rural communities. For example, I was delighted to award funding of €113,772 to Dean Crowe Theatre Trust in Athlone earlier this year as part of the Arts and Culture Capital Scheme, as access to the arts is a vital part of community life.
“I am delighted at the appointment of Westmeath’s dedicated broadband officer, Gerry McCormack, and I would like to thank him for the work he and his team are carrying out to prepare for the rollout of high-speed broadband in Westmeath. As announced by my colleague Minister Naughten last week, Eir has signed a contract with the Government and commits to connect 300,000 additional premises to high-speed broadband before the end of 2018.
“In Westmeath, where 58 per cent of premises are already covered by the commercial operators, this means that with the help of Eir Commercial Rural Development Plan, an additional 15 per cent of premises will be connected within 90 weeks, which represents 73 per cent of the county or over 32,000 premises.”
Minister Humphreys said that together with the Government’s Rural Ambassador, Pat Spillane, she hopes to visit as many rural communities as possible in the coming months to speak to local authorities and other stakeholders about our co-ordinated approach to rural Ireland.
“While I have met with local authority chief executives collectively to discuss the Action Plan on a number of occasions, nothing beats getting out on the ground and meeting local communities,” she commented.