Minister defends 'renewal scheme'
A €10m fund to help rejuvenate 200 towns and villages will have a "lasting impact", Rural Development Minister Heather Humphreys has said.
The minister has defended her renewal scheme in the face of criticism that it is just a "box-ticking" exercise.
Ms Humphreys said money will be "targeted specifically" at getting investment into towns around the country.
"What this scheme is doing is utilising local knowledge, and indeed local enthusiasm and commitment [that people have] to their town," she said.
"It's allowing businesses and communities to come up with their own proposals as to what can provide maximum benefit to their town."
Under the scheme, eight towns in every county will share €830,000 that can be used on projects such as streetscape improvements, heritage infrastructure or other community initiatives.
"It's up to each local authority to engage with businesses and communities to come with their proposals.
"I have adopted this approach because there is not a one-cap-fits-all solution for what rural towns and villages need. Every town is different," Ms Humphreys said.
The allocations to each town must be between €20,000 and €100,000, with the average pay-out expected to be in the region of €47,000.
Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice has hit out at the scheme, saying it is an attempt by the Government to pretend it has begun the regeneration of rural Ireland.
"To be quite frank about it, you would want 20 times that if you were to make an effort in regenerating parts of rural Ireland," he said.
The chief executive of Chambers Ireland, Ian Talbot said consultation with business owners will be critical to the scheme's success.
He said stakeholders must work closely "to develop innovative projects that can deliver long-term and sustainable economic benefits, not only for the individual town or village but in turn for the wider county and region".