JUNIOR innovation Minister Sean Sherlock has said he believed bodies such as IRD Duhallow have a vital role to play in the future development Ireland's rural economy.
Minister Sherlock said that innovative projects, such as the Corkman sponsored IRD Duhallow Business Awards, will serve to highlight the key role that Leader groups play in rural Ireland.
"IRD Duhallow has a proven track record in sustaining economic activity, notwithstanding the obvious challenges that Leader companies are facing," said minister Sherlock.
"It is vital that we do not lose the business development ethos groups such as IRD have built up over long periods of time. The impact of their programmes has created a strong multiplier effect through things such as sub-supply and the strong support they have given local businesses that now have national branding," he added.
The Minister did acknowledge that rural businesses were under pressure, due in no small measure to the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing CAP negotiations.
However, he maintained the long-term outlook for rural Irish economies was positive, and that initiatives such as the IRD Duhallow Awards served to remind people of this.
The Minister pointed out that the emergence of new and innovative companies across the rural landscape is a relatively new phenomenon.
"Traditionally there has been a reliance on the agri sector to fuel the rural economy. We are now seeing an increasing number of companies choosing to locate away from urban centres, due in no small measure to quality of life issues," said Minister Sherlock.
"Through awards such as this we recognise that demographic shift, the challenges that rural businesses face and take the chance to celebrate their ongoing success."