CLARE is the first county to launch a rural development strategy, which has a 4,000-jobs target, following the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development.
Today (Thursday), Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring officially launches the Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026, which targets the creation of the 4,000 jobs over its lifetime.The launch takes place at an event organised by the Clare Rural Development Forum in Kilmaley Community Daycare Centre.
The action plan aims to create the 4,000 jobs through the development of community-led social enterprises, supported by Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office Clare, the Office of the Action Plan for Jobs (APJ), the LEADER Programme and the rural and community support unit of Clare County Council.
Digital hubs will be established at numerous locations throughout the county to support rural enterprise by facilitating e-working, small-scale training and conferencing.
The strategy also targets the development of community-run, multi-service centres, which will aim to provide a range of public services, such as GP, postal, social protection, health, transport, advice and information from a single building. Innovative rural transport initiatives, such as a type of ‘rural Uber’, community car pooling and community bus services are also earmarked under the strategy, while Clare County Council will be establishing Rural Community Development Officers in each of Clare’s four municipal districts by the end of the year.
Minister Ring said, “Rural Ireland is changing and it’s really encouraging to see that Clare County Council is responding to these changes with practical, common-sense measures. Clare County Council’s rural strategy is a creative and ‘can-do’ approach to rural challenges, such as broadband coverage and rural transport.
“Clare County Council is currently developing a ‘rural Uber’-type app to facilitate car pooling and community bus services. This will enable people in remote areas to get into their towns and villages. It makes sense from a practical point of view and has the benefit of encouraging social interaction within communities.
“Five local digital hubs are going to be rolled out in the next 18 months, to enable people to work and carry out business using high-speed broadband from their local town village.
“All of these measures are practical, common-sense responses to challenges facing rural communities. As Minister for Rural and Community Development, my remit is to ensure that the State supports jobs, helps build communities and connects people. That’s what this strategy is all about. In fact, it’s very much aligned with national Government policy on rural Ireland. Clare County Council, in launching this rural strategy, is responding in a constructive way to the changes that are shaping rural Ireland. It’s good to see local authorities thinking and acting strategically and practically in relation to the challenges facing rural Ireland.”
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Tom McNamara commented, “The Clare Rural Development Strategy is the result of communities and organisations with an interest in the future development of the county coming together. Through the Clare Rural Development Forum, we have devised a blueprint for the rejuvenation of rural communities across Clare over the next decade. I believe this strategy will give the impetus to rural communities to show leadership and take ownership of their own future, while at the same time avail of existing supports and expertise.”
Pat Dowling, chairperson of the Clare Rural Development Forum and chief executive of Clare County Council, said the strategy targets a reversal of the statistical trends that emphasise the stark challenges facing rural Clare. “While the overall population of County Clare grew over the past 30 years, particular rural areas suffered population declines of up to 35%. Depopulated areas lost much of their agricultural and retail employment and gained few jobs in the emerging sectors. Primary school and GP service closures and threats of closure have followed as public services contracted,” he explained.
Mr Dowling noted there is “no broad-brush approach to countering these challenges” and addressing them has required members of the forum to adopt “a brave new approach, a spirit of partnership and an avoidance of negative thinking”.
He stated, “Our strategy aims to deliver jobs, multi-service centres, co-operating towns and parishes, environmental programmes, age-friendly communities, vibrant rural ways of life, and a range of infrastructure.”
The Clare Rural Development Strategy is available from the offices of Clare County Council at Áras Contae an Chláir, New Road, Ennis, or may be downloaded from www.clarecoco.ie