Government aims to create 135,000 jobs as part of rural investment plan

It includes measures to rejuvenate over 600 towns and villages

Government aims to create 135,000 jobs as part of rural investment plan

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Government has published a plan for rural Ireland, aimed at helping to create 135,000 jobs around the country.

The plan includes measures to rejuvenate over 600 towns and villages, with a scheme to encourage residential living in town centres.

The plan devised by Minister Heather Humphreys is modelled on the previous Government Action Plans on Jobs.

This plan contains more than 270 actions - which it says will support sustainable communities, enterprise and employment, maximise tourism potential, foster culture and creativity and improve rural infrastructure.

€60m will be invested in the rejuvenation of 600 rural and regional towns, alongside a pilot scheme to encourage people to live in town and village centres.

€50m will be invested in job creation in the regions, and there is a pledge to increase foreign direct investment in the regions to 40% - all to achieve the target of 135,000 jobs outside our cities by 2020.

An Atlantic economic corridor will also be developed along the western seaboard.

The Government say the action plan will act as "an overarching structure for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives right across Government", which will benefit rural Ireland.

It is the first plan of its kind to take a cohesive and coordinated approach to the implementation of both economic and social policies that impact on rural communities.

The plan was prepared following a consultation process - which included engagement with all government departments, meetings with key rural representative bodies and a series of regional workshops.

The plan contains 276 actions across five key pillars:

  • Supporting sustainable communities
  • Supporting enterprise and employment
  • Maximising rural tourism and recreation potential
  • Fostering culture and creativity in rural communities
  • Improving rural infrastructure and connectivity

While some key actions under the plan include assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development, tackle social exclusion and provide services to people living in remote areas.

It also is aiming to 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.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "The development and revitalisation of rural Ireland is a key priority in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

"We can do more and do better to drive the creative spirit of rural Ireland for the benefit of everybody, young and old alike.

"This is the aim of our Action Plan for Rural Development, to unlock both the economic and social potential of rural Ireland.

"I chair a cabinet committee on rural Ireland, where I will be pushing all Government ministers to deliver initiatives under their individual portfolios which will have a positive impact on rural Ireland."

Speaking in Longford, Mr Kenny said rural Ireland's future will be digital - with the promise of high-speed broadband in every home in Ireland.

"Despite all the instant communications, there are those in rural Ireland and indeed in urban Ireland who are left behind, who are not contacted, who have no word from anybody," he said.

"That is where community spirit and community strength can flourish through this particular programme."

While Minister Humphreys added: "I believe passionately in rural communities and as someone who has lived and worked in rural Ireland throughout my life, I have seen, first-hand, the commitment and determination of rural communities to succeed.

"Through this Action Plan, I want to empower rural communities to realise their full potential."

Minster Humphreys told Newstalk Drive this afternoon that every government department had contributed to the plan.

“We want to create jobs in rural Ireland. We want to increase tourism. We also want to put culture and creativity at the heart of rural counties and we want to improve connectivity.

Minister Humphreys has also announced the launch of a new website - www.ruralireland.ie - which will act as a hub for information on services and supports for rural dwellers.