Minister Humphreys discusses opportunities for rural communities in Westmeath in the Action Plan for Rural Development
The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, today (Thursday) met with key personnel in Westmeath County Council to discuss issues facing rural communities in the county and how the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development can help maximise their potential. The meeting took place this morning, ahead of the launch of the 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme in Moate, which will see €20 million being invested in 300 towns and villages over the next 15 months.
Minister Humphreys met with Director of Services Barry Kehoe and key members of Westmeath County Council, including the newly established Culture Team and the Broadband Officer. They discussed the opportunities and supports available for rural communities in Westmeath as part of the Action Plan for Rural Development, Realising our Rural Potential, which includes a number of key targets, including creating 135,000 jobs outside Dublin by 2020 and boosting rural tourism by 12%.
Speaking after her meeting with Westmeath County Council Minister Humphreys said:
“I have visited Moate previously and have been struck by the real sense of community spirit here and the can-do attitude of the rural community and I am delighted to be here today to meet the team and to launch the new Town and Village Scheme which will invest €20 million in approximately 300 towns and villages over the next 15 months.
“Rural Ireland has so much to offer and I am keen that the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development enhances all aspects of life in rural communities. For example, I was delighted to award funding of €113,772 to Dean Crowe Theatre Trust in Athlone earlier this year as part of the Arts and Culture Capital Scheme, as access to the arts is a vital part of community life.
“I am delighted at the appointment of Westmeath’s dedicated Broadband Officer, Gerry McCormack and I would like to thank him for the work he and his team are carrying out to prepare for the rollout of high-speed broadband in Westmeath. As announced by my colleague Minister Naughten last week, Eir has signed a contract with the Government and commits to connect 300,000 additional premises to high-speed broadband before the end of 2018. In Westmeath, where 58% of premises are already covered by the commercial operators, this means that with the help of Eir Commercial Rural Development Plan, an additional 15% premises will be connected within 90 weeks which represents 73% of the county, or over 32,000 premises.
“Together with the Government’s Rural Ambassador, Pat Spillane, I hope to visit as many rural communities as possible in the coming months, to speak to Local Authorities and other stakeholders about our co-ordinated approach to rural Ireland. While I have met with Local Authority Chief Executives collectively to discuss the Action Plan on a number of occasions, nothing beats getting out on the ground and meeting local communities. The Action Plan for Rural Development takes a ground up approach; I want to support rural communities to focus on their strengths, build sustainable enterprises and maximise their rural potential.”