DISAPPOINTMENT has been expressed by Clare’s Fine Gael TD over a lack of funding for this county in the latest roll-out of a multi-million euro rural regeneration fund.
Commenting on the €75 million allocation unveiled earlier this month, Deputy Joe Carey said he was particularly disappointed at the lack of funding for People’s Park in Kilmihil. Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, Deputy Carey noted the benefits the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) had previously brought to Clare, but said there was concern at the lack of an allocation in the latest funding round.
Congratulating Minister Heather Humphreys on “an ambitious rural policy,” Deputy Carey said it was clear the government was committed to rural Ireland. “We have done really well in recent years in County Clare,” he acknowledged. “There is a significant project in Ennistymon, where a digital hub is being created. It has been a great success. We have seen significant progress in the redevelopment of Seaworld, Lahinch and the Vandeleur Walled Garden, Kilrush. Work is also in progress on the Loop Head lighthouse and the creation of a landmark facility in Holy Island in East Clare too. There is great progress.”
The Fine Gael members noted that none of the 24 projects funded earlier this month is in Clare. “I am especially disappointed that a project in Kilmihil did not receive money,” he outlined. “This was for the third phase of its people’s park project. That community organisation has been in existence for the past seven and a half years. It has made substantial ground. Its project was to develop a community hub and remote working hub in Kilmihil. It was valued at €1.6 million and it had €300,000 secured from the philanthropic trust, the Tomar Trust. Unfortunately, it did not receive money in this round. I spoke to the minister about this in a personal capacity and I spoke with her officials. I hope that she could further engage and ensure that this project gets back on track. I look for her support with that.”
Minister Humphreys noted that a total of €9.8 million has been allocated to Clare since the regeneration fund opened. “I would say that anybody who has been unsuccessful should engage with the department and get feedback,” she said. “The main reason that some applications were not successful this time was that, first, one must have planning permission. That was a criterion that had to be complied with. Some applications did not fit in with the criteria of the fund. For example, some applications were for greenways. We know that the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has a big pot of money for greenways but in this round of funding, I was trying to target dereliction and centre-of-town properties that had gone out of use. Some projects just did not stand up to scrutiny. They did not represent good value for money or perhaps there were issues with sustainability. I would say to Deputy Carey to get the applicants to the project to engage with my officials. We will give everybody feedback and go through it with them. The good news is that I will have another round of this funding, which I will launch later in the year.”
Deputy Carey also asked the minister about the recently launched ‘Our Rural Future’ plan and the possibility of allowing to bid for money to develop community plans.
Minister Humphries described Our Rural Future as the government’s “blueprint for the sustainable development of rural Ireland over the next five years”. “It provides the framework to achieve the vision of transforming the quality of life and opportunity for people living in rural areas,” she said.