Our Rural Future – supported by 150 commitments across Government – reflects the unprecedented change in living and working patterns during Covid-19 and the significant opportunities this presents for rural communities – from remote working and revitalising our town centres to job creation, developing a green economy and enhancing our outdoor amenities.
New policy commits to 150 actions
‘Our Rural Future’ was launched with as much fanfare as Covid-19 would allow for in April.
It is the Government’s five-year strategy to transform rural Ireland and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Transport and the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan attended in Croke Park for a real-life launch.
The government believes we have an “unprecedented opportunity for Rural Development post Covid-19”.
The plan is focused on attracting remote workers to rural communities (one element of which we look at in the following pages).
It covers revitalising town centres, rural jobs, adventure tourism, a green economy and island development.
Broadband roll-out is obviously critical to rural development and critics pointed out the strategy did not include costings nor target dates. Nonetheless, it was widely welcomed.
Rural networks funded by government gave it a warm welcome, while mainstream media commentators varied from slightly skeptical on a plan without deadlines to wildly enthusiastic (It “hits all the right notes,” wrote Clodagh Finn in the ‘Irish Examiner’).
An idea for pub hubs in communities was picked up by the BBC and others abroad, to the delight of Minister Humphreys.
She and her colleagues in government described ‘Our Rural Future’ as “the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades”.
The policy reflects the unprecedented change in living and working patterns during Covid-19 and the significant opportunities this presents for rural communities – from remote working and revitalising our town centres to job creation, developing a green economy and enhancing our outdoor amenities.
It is supported by 150 commitments across Government, which will address the challenges facing communities and deliver new opportunities for people living in rural areas.
The policy will help rural Ireland to recover from the impacts of Covid-19, enable long-term development of rural areas, and create more resilient rural economies and communities for the future.
Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:
“Ireland is heading into an era of unprecedented change, and with that comes unprecedented opportunity.
“Over the course of the pandemic, we have discovered new ways of working and we have rediscovered our communities.
“The policy we launch today, Our Rural Future, provides a framework for the development of rural areas over the next five years.
“The policy is forward-looking and ambitious and addresses both the challenges facing rural areas and the opportunities which rural economies and communities can capitalise on.
“The Government’s vision is for a rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.
“That vision is built on the talent, skills and creativity of people in rural communities; on the importance of vibrant and lived-in rural places; and on the potential to create quality jobs and sustain our shared environment.
“Rural Ireland will play a central role in our recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
“The commitments outlined today will benefit individuals, families, communities and businesses. It will enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of people living in rural areas.
“It will build resilient and sustainable rural communities and economies through investment, supports and services. And it will ensure that rural communities are at the heart of designing and delivering responses that meet local needs.”
Minister Humphreys said:
“Our Rural Future represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development for Ireland.
“As we recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to reimagine rural Ireland and harness the talent, skills and creativity running through our rural communities.
“For decades we have seen global trends where young people leave their local communities to live and work in larger cities. As we emerge from Covid-19 we will never have a better opportunity to reverse that long-standing trend.
“The move to remote working, underpinned by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, has the potential to transform Rural Ireland like never before.
“It will allow people to work from their own local communities, revitalise our town centres, reduce commuting times, lower transport emissions and most importantly – improve the quality of life of our people.”
An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said:
“We want to have more people working in all parts of Ireland, with good quality jobs on offer and good career prospects. The Covid-19 pandemic has already shown us what’s possible in terms of remote working and flexible working. Our Rural Future is one of the ways that the Government is making that a permanent option.
“Our Rural Future will help the tourism and hospitality sectors to recover after the pandemic, create jobs in the Green Economy and the Agri-food sector, and make it easier to set up and grow a business in Rural Ireland.
“It means more people will be able to live in their communities, or move to new ones, with the option of good quality employment. It will mean less commuting, and more vibrant communities as people have more time to spend with their families, their neighbours, and local clubs and organisations.
“Broadband and new technologies are key to making this happen. That work has already started. I am proud to have been part of the Government that kicked off the National Broadband Plan – the biggest investment in rural Ireland since electrification. And I’m equally proud to be part of the Government that is now making it happen.”
Minister Ryan stated:
“Now is the time to be ambitious for rural Ireland. The governments investment in climate action will bring new job opportunities to rural communities, in areas such as renewable energy, retrofitting and sustainable farming and tourism. The National Broadband Plan will act as a key enabler for the development of new businesses in regional and rural Ireland, together with an increased opportunity for people to work from home. Through the Just Transition Fund, Government is supporting the retraining and reskilling of rural workers and assisting local communities and businesses to adjust to the low carbon transition.
“We want to put the development and regeneration of our rural towns and villages at the heart of decision making, so that they are vibrant centres where people can live, work and socialise, with walking, cycling and public transport options connecting people and places. The Government will continue to support this active mobility through the National Transport Authority, with €72m in funding being allocated in 2021 for high quality cycling and walking infrastructure for our more rural towns and villages across the country. Through the implementation of Our Rural Future, Government will seize this unprecedented opportunity for rural Ireland.”
Download ‘Our Rural Future – Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025’ via this link:
Vision and Objectives
Our Rural Future sets out a Vision and Objectives which sees rural Ireland as central to our post-COVID recovery and integral to our longer-term national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.
The Vision emphasises the interdependence of rural and urban areas and recognises:
– the centrality of the people who live in rural Ireland;
– the importance of vibrant and lived-in rural places; and
– the possibilities for rural areas to support quality jobs and contribute to sustaining our shared environment.
The policy will encourage and support rural communities to develop cohesive and integrated plans to meet the long-term needs of their own particular area, recognising that each rural place is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to meet the developmental needs of every area.
HIGH LEVEL OUTCOMES
The high-level outcomes of delivering this policy will see:
– More people living in rural Ireland, including in our towns and villages and on the islands;
– More people working in rural Ireland, with good career prospects, regardless of where their employer is headquartered;
– Rural Ireland contributing to, and benefiting from, the transition to a low-carbon economy and a climate-neutral society;
– Rural towns being vibrant hubs for commercial and social activity; and
– Rural communities, and especially young people, having an active role in shaping the future for rural Ireland.
Examples of key actions in terms of community supports to be delivered through ‘Our Rural Future’:
- Establish a Rural Youth Assembly.
- Establish a permanent Volunteer Reserve in local areas.
- Develop a single online portal to provide a funding roadmap on the range of programmes and schemes available across Government for rural and community development.
- Develop and implement Local Digital Strategies in each Local Authority area.
- Develop an integrated, place-based approach to rural development to support rural communities to develop long-term Master Plans for their areas.
KEY ACTIONS ON REMOTE WORKING
Examples of some of the key actions in terms of remote working which will be delivered through ‘Our Rural Future’ include:
Establish a network of over 400 remote working hubs nationwide to enable more people to live and work in rural communities.
- Pilot co-working and hot-desking hubs for civil servants in regional towns.
- Move to 20% remote working in the public sector in 2021, with further annual increase over the next 5 years.
- IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta to promote and enable the uptake of remote working across their client base.
- Fund the repurposing of vacant buildings in town centres into remote working hubs.
- Review the tax arrangements for remote working for both employers and employees as part of Budget 2022.
- Introduce legislation in 2021 to provide employees with the right to request remote work.
- Provide funding to Local Authorities to run targeted campaigns to attract remote workers to their area.
- Examine the introduction of specific incentives to attract remote workers and mobile talent to live in rural towns.
Examples of some of the key actions in terms of rural living which will be delivered through ‘Our Rural Future’:
- Update the Rural Housing Guidelines for planning authorities.
- Identify the scope to channel additional Government services through the post office network.
- Implement a €70 million Transitional LEADER Programme (see page 23).
- Improve rural public transport, including enhancements to Local Link, a subsidised Local Area Hackney Scheme for remote locations and a pilot to examine the potential for ride hailing services.
- Increase the number of places on the Rural Social Scheme, TÚS and Community Employment Schemes to support rural areas.
- Establish 96 new Community Healthcare Networks across the country to support people to live more independently locally.
- Support research and development in areas such as agri-food, biobased systems, smart agriculture and precision agriculture.
- Expand the number of farmers’ markets, farm shops and community-owned markets in all towns.
- Enact legislation implementing revised provisions for the Fair Deal Scheme in respect of farm and business assets which are family-owned and operated.
- Support generation renewal, including young farmers and women in agriculture, through the CAP, taxation measures and access to finance initiatives.
- Publish and implement a new 10-year policy for the development of our offshore islands.
- Establish enterprise hubs on our islands to support employment.
- Utilise the islands as test-beds for innovative technologies in areas such as eHealth and micro-generation of renewable energy.