Tuesday 18 June 2019

Members of rural communities meet government ministers in Cork

Maria Herlihy

There was a full house in Castletownroche yesterday morning as Minister Michael Ring was joined by members from rural communities from Cork and Kerry.

The event focussed on raising awareness of the wide variety of Government supports available to rural areas throughout the region.  It also provided advice on how to access Project Ireland 2040 funding for rural, or community projects. 

Minister Ring was joined at the event by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD; and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD.

Voluntary and community groups from Cork and Kerry that have an interest in accessing Government supports were invited to attend. The audience heard from a number of individuals from the region about how funding has enabled them to deliver projects that benefited their communities. 

Banteer Community Sportsfield Secretary Denis Withers spoke at the event, and he said the idea of his locality's state-of-the-art facility was thought of three years ago, and the group, with the help of Cllr John Paul O'Shea and Minister Michael Creed, began to move it towards the planning stage. 

"We got planning then in January 2018, which is in place for 10 years, and once planning was granted, we went about securing funding for this big project," he said.

"We met with members at Cork County Council along with local representatives. Just around this time, the  Rural Regeneration Development Fund was announced, so you could say we were at the right place at the right time." 

The stipulations for funding under the Rural Regeneration Programme meant that a project had to be shovel ready. That box was ticked off by the group. 

Mr Withers explained that the expertise of IRD Duhallow CEO Maura Walsh, along with staff  Helen O'Sullivan and Louise Bourke, stepped in and managed and submitted their application for funding to Minister Michael Ring's office.  

The project itself will see the development of a multi-purpose, flood-lit, regulation-sized astro-turf facility in the village of Banteer, which will be available for use by all sports throughout the year.  It will be developed on the existing second grass pitch area at Banteer Community Sportsfield and Park. 

The facility will include an all-weather facility, spectator area and sports pavilion, which will encompass changing areas, a museum, an exhibitor area, a café area, and a communal area for events and meetings. 

This project will provide an all-year-round recreational facility for the catchment area and the Duhallow region of Cork and Kerry, and will contribute to the local economy and healthy living.  The project has received funding of €1,410,000 from IRD Duhallow CLG, and €1,128,000 under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund from the Department of Rural and Community Development under Project Ireland 2040.

Colm Murphy, CEO of the company Firebird Heating Solutions, outlined how his company has "thrived in a rural area", and it employs 150 people.  

He spoke about how Údarás na Gaeltachta helped Firebird in a number of ways, including support with research, development and innovation. Anne Condon - Co-ordinator of the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Festival in Waterville, County Kerry - spoke about the support the festival has received from the LEADER Programme. 

The festival provides a considerable economic boost to the Waterville area. Speaking at the event, Minister Ring said that the case studies presented at the event were inspirational. He said that all projects start with an idea, and then getting from an idea to completion takes determination and resilience. 

"This Government aims to support rural projects that improve the quality of life for citizens, create jobs and employment, encourage tourism, promote our culture and the Irish language. These are the areas that are important to build a vibrant rural Ireland", he said.

An Tánaiste Simon Coveney said: "Project Ireland 2040 is a €116 billion investment over 10 years by the Government. We are doing this to make sure that as the population of the country grows, we have balanced regional development, and rural areas are attractive places for families to live." 

Finally, Minister Humphreys TD said that Project Ireland 2040 has 10 National Strategic outcomes. She said that the region has seen employment growth exceed the national average for the period 2015 to 2018.

"Following the success of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, I launched the South-West Regional Enterprise Plan earlier this year. This plan will build on previous successes and ensure that the South-West region remains economically strong. 

"This and the €10m investment from the Regional Enterprise Development Fund in the area will continue to deliver jobs across the region and provide a framework to address the challenges we face, including Brexit," she said.