Muintir na Tíre, the National Association for Community Development, has greeted the new Government Action Plan for Rural Development with a cautious welcome. The plan has been launched through a 70-page document, with 276 actions listed.
Muintir na Tíre CEO, Niall Garvey said "We have been lobbying for many years on the need for a comprehensive Government policy for Rural Ireland. This has included our Save Rural Ireland campaign in partnership with other national bodies, and our call for a full Government ministry for rural affairs."
"We therefore welcome the issuing of this comprehensive action plan. It still does not include an overall policy - we envisaged this including a vision of future Rural Ireland - what it would be like to live and work in, what essential services would be required for this, and what baseline commitment would be given on the provision of these services."
"Neither has the commitment given to "rural proofing" in last year's Rural Charter been continued. This was to be a mandatory system of assessment of Government policies, to ensure all future Government policies were designed with full and stated consideration of their impact on Rural Ireland. The previous Government also had committed to review all current, relevant, national policy frameworks in the same context, with a view to their amendment if necessary."
"On the positive side, though, the Action Plan builds on the previous CEDRA (Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas) report. It goes further, recognising that economic development is essential, but that social and cultural development are also vital components for communities."
Muintir na Tíre President, Paddy Byrne, said "We look forward to working with the Minister and other stakeholders in helping to implement many of these actions, particularly in the pillars of Supporting Sustainable Communities, and Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity. This is what we do - enable communities."
"Many of the actions are areas we are already involved in such as the Text Alert scheme and Seniors Alert (socially monitored alarms for the elderly), but we already receiving calls from our 1,000+ groups looking for information on many of the other actions."
"Of course, many of the actions listed are already in place, or have previously been announced, but there are plenty of new actions and having them all together in one reference document is essential - it will now be easy to monitor their implementation or otherwise."
Niall Garvey added "This Action Plan must be a living document. There is a commitment to a six-monthly review process and this must happen - with significant, measurable, outputs in each period. We have had worthwhile reports before, particularly the CEDRA report, but the pace of implementation was very slow. Our member organisations are generally progressive, and will support any action in a positive way but they are giving us a very clear message - it is now time for action. We look forward to it."