To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when a coordinating unit to work with communities to develop co-operative structures to keep vital local services in place and to retain and develop vibrant local enterprises will be established as promised in the Programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– Mattie McGrath.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11th October, 2016.
Ref No: 29250/16 Proof: 339
R E P L Y
Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Heather Humphreys, T.D.)
The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a suite of commitments for delivery across Government relating to the protection of local services in rural Ireland. The measures detailed in the Government Programme include the provision of next-generation broadband coverage, addressing the renewal of the post office network, supporting local jobseekers, and the provision of other services in areas such as education, health and security. These services fall under the remit of a number of Government Departments and agencies.
I have established a new co-ordination unit within my Department which is currently working on the development of an Action Plan for Rural Development that will act as an overarching structure for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives across Government for the benefit of rural Ireland. The implementation of those initiatives will contribute significantly to the protection and enhancement of local services and help generate increased economic activity in rural areas. My Department has recently conducted an extensive consultation process around the country to seek the views of people in rural Ireland on potential measures for inclusion in the Action Plan for Rural Development. My objective is to publish the Action Plan before the end of the year.
My Department is also working directly on proposals for the renewal of the post office network, including through the Post Office Hub Working Group, which is chaired by Minister of State Michael Ring. This Group is identifying potential models under which the post offices could act as hubs for economic and social activity in the community, especially in rural areas.