Minister Heather Humphreys, speaking in the Dáil on May 25th, gave an update on the development of a new islands policy. While work on the policy was delayed by the pandemic, it is one of the key elements in ‘Our Rural Future’, the Government’s new rural development policy.
“The central objective of the islands policy will be to ensure sustainable, vibrant communities continue to live on the offshore islands,” said Minister Humphreys.
“I hope to have a draft policy document by the end of this year,” she said. “Once agreed, the policy will be supported by a series of action plans across the Government to support, promote and empower our island communities.”
She said a consultation process conducted by her Department of Rural and Community Development last year identified the main challenges.
“Issues which were highlighted by the island communities included education, health, housing, energy, employment, broadband and access to services,” she said.
An interdepartmental committee that convened in January was due to again meet in June to review progress on devising the new policy.
DEPT. RESPONSIBLE FOR ISLANDS
The Department of Rural and Community Development has responsibility for islands.
It states: “Our coastal islands are an integral part of the state’s heritage. Around 30 of these islands are inhabited and hold a wealth of cultural heritage. A central objective of this Department is to ensure that sustainable vibrant communities continue to live on the islands.”
“Satisfactory services and a developed infrastructure are important prerequisites for maintaining island populations. The department’s aim is to seek to meet these requirements through current and capital investment via the Department itself and through other relevant Departments and organisations.”
“In recent years, priority has been given to the development of island infrastructure as well as subsidising comprehensive access services. The quality of life of the island populations has improved significantly as a result of this.”
“The islands on the west coast of Ireland represent a bastion of Irish heritage, culture and language and today their protection and development is guaranteed by government policy.”
These islands are scattered along the west coast of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Cork. They include islands within and outside the Gaeltacht.
Today, there are over 30 inhabited islands surrounding the whole island.
In the past, State support proved inadequate and some islands died, including the Great Blasket Island off Kerry and Inishark off Galway.