On March 29, 2021 in Ireland, the government published Our Rural Future, the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural revitalization 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 revitalizing town centers, to job creation, developing a green economy and enhancing our outdoor amenities.
The five year strategy was launched in Croke Park by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Transport and the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan.
Speaking at the launch of the policy, 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,” he added.
“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,” Martin concluded.
Our Rural Future sets out a blueprint for the revitalization and redevelopment of rural Ireland over the next five years.
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.
Heather 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,” she continued. “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.”
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.
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,” he continued. “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,” Varadkar added.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Minister for Transport, Eamon 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,” Ryan concluded.