By establishing the Department of Community and Rural Development in 2017, we demonstrated our ambition to back local communities in every part of Ireland, urban and rural. The creation of the new Department reflected a deliberate shift and pro-active approach to ensuring economic recovery and investment is accelerated in rural and urban areas, market towns and villages that have not experienced economic recovery to the same extent as our cities.
‘Project Ireland 2040’ - our plan for growth for every part of Ireland
Balanced regional development is at the heart of the Government’s ‘Project Ireland 2040’ Plan and there is scope for the growth of all towns in Ireland. The Project Ireland 2040 Plan ensures sustainable growth over the next twenty years in all parts of Ireland. We are working hard to ensure a more effective balance of development across our country, with the intention that all regions grow at broadly comparable rates.
We want to build up the cities of Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Galway with each being targeted for population growth of more than 50%, twice the growth range projected for Dublin. Towns with key regional functions such as Athlone in the midlands, Sligo in the north-west, as well as the cross border city-regions of the future like Letterkenny-Derry and Drogheda-Dundalk-Newry will be growth centres under our Plan. Stretching from Kerry to Donegal, the Atlantic Economic Corridor initiative will promote economic development along the western seaboard. It will maximise the assets of the region, better utilise the economic hubs and catchments to attract investment, job creation and contribute to an improved quality of life for people who live in the region.
In tandem with this Plan, the largest ever dedicated funding for urban and rural regeneration and development has been established by Fine Gael in Government. With the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan and funding we can reach our aim - to strengthen the social and economic fabric of all our cities, towns and villages so that they are well placed to benefit from growth and opportunity.
To harness this potential, a one-size fits all approach will not work. Fine Gael is therefore also ensuring supports for business, communities, local groups and individuals in the following ways:
QUALITY JOBS, ENTERPRISE & INFRASTRUCTURE
Growing the Regional and Local Economy
There are now more people at work than ever in the history of the State. Over 154,000 jobs have been created 2016. Almost two-thirds of these new jobs have been created outside of Dublin. This is the balance of growth that helps reinvigorate regional towns, gives workers greater choice and ensure the economic progress is spread evenly across the country.
Fine Gael is not complacent about job creation. The Government’s new Jobs Plan, Future Jobs Ireland, seeks to future proof our economy by focusing on the quality and sustainability of all jobs. In February, enterprise plans for each of the 9 regions were published – again one size does not fit all. They do share one core focus – bringing Councils, state agencies, third level institutions and local stakeholders together to maximise job and enterprise potential around the country. As well as local jobs targets, we will provide competitive funding to boost regional enterprise projects, help deliver further advance facilities by IDA, and create new opportunities and collaboration between business and the new Technological Universities.
Assisting the growth of our local economies, the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund - with a budget of €2bn over 10 years - will help to rejuvenate significant but underused areas in Ireland’s five cities and other large towns with populations over 10,000. The funding seeks to stimulate new residential and commercial developments, along with new services and amenities.
The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund - with a budget of €1bn over 10 years - aims to revitalise parts of rural Ireland by supporting self-sustaining projects in towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000. These projects in sectors such as tourism, agri-food and recreation, will have a knock on economic and social benefit.
The opportunities from both funds are immense (see below for examples of successful projects to date). Fine Gael Councillors and Local Authorities have been to the fore in bringing groups together to bid for project funding. Fine Gael Councillors will ensure that Local Authorities remain active in their collaborations with the public and private sector and civil society groups to access and deliver innovative responses that will lift our communities and futures.
- Funding for large scale strategic sites on both sides of the river in the Tivoli/Cork Docklands Regeneration areas.
- Regeneration for O’Connell Street and projects in the city centre of Limerick.
- The regeneration of Athenry Town, including the completion of the existing Bia Innovator Campus, driving entrepreneurship opportunities.
- A national mountain-biking project that will develop recreational facilities in four locations across seven counties (Offaly, Laois, Sligo, Dublin, Wicklow, Limerick Cork) promoting economic tourism potential.
Arts and Culture
Arts and cultural events are a central part of life in Ireland’s cities, towns and villages, providing both a focal point for local communities and making an important contribution to economic and tourist activity. Fine Gael Councillors will work with the main funders of arts and cultural events including the Arts Council, Local Authorities and Culture Ireland to ensure the continued development of world-class national and local festivals and events. Fine Gael in Government will continue to ensure capital funding is made available for the development of theatres, museums and arts centres.
Nightlife and the night-time economy
A vibrant and diverse night-life is an important part of the cultural offering of any urban area. It makes our towns and cities more attractive and interesting places to live and helps attract domestic and international tourists. Fine Gael wants to see the establishment of local committees and ‘night mayors’ to advance and improve our night time entertainment, creative and cultural offerings. Consideration will be given to licensing regulations, venue availability and changes will be balanced with the needs of residential areas.
Supporting Galway 2020
Fine Gael will work with the Galway 2020 board and executive team to drive the project forward in 2019, maximising the funding available and ensuring the expertise and creativity required for a successful 2020 programme is in place.
Consultation on Poolbeg Stacks
The disused Poolbeg Stacks are a symbol of Dublin City and are still owned by the ESB. Fine Gael will launch a public competition for proposals on their future use.
Commitment to Cork Events Centre
The vibrancy of Cork already plays an important national and international role. The Cork Events Centre will be key to providing space for the arts, culture and conference activities. Our Councillors will work in partnership with Cork City Council and Government to deliver this project.
A stronger Local Enterprise Office (LEO)
Fine Gael is committed to our small, local, indigenous businesses. We delivered on our commitment in 2014 and established a network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). Five years on, the LEOs have proven a remarkable success in assisting small business and creating jobs in every county, urban, suburban and rural. In order to build on this success, we have increased the budget for the LEOs by 25% for 2019.
Fine Gael is also determined to expand the powers of the Local Enterprise Offices so they can further encourage local job creation. At present, the LEOs can only provide direct grants to businesses with 10 employees or less while Enterprise Ireland usually target larger companies who have exporting potential. This means a cohort of businesses with more than 10 employees operating exclusively in the domestic market are currently not eligible for LEO’s expertise. Fine Gael wants to change this.
With our Councillors, Fine Gael will ensure all ambitious companies, regardless of their size, have access to LEOs. As part of Future Jobs Ireland, we will strengthen the capacity of Local Enterprise Offices to provide a comprehensive range of tools for indigenous Irish businesses and entrepreneurs.
Fine Gael Councillors will demand more ambitious jobs creation targets are met in each county and that further attention is given to boost more start-up businesses.
Fine Gael wants to ensure that new and local businesses are able to avail of the many benefits from having an online presence. We have introduced a new pilot competitive scheme for eligible SMEs in the retail sector. The new scheme will allow retailers to strengthen their online trading capabilities in order to compete internationally. This is in addition to the Trading Online Voucher Scheme available through the Local Enterprise Office.
High speed broadband
Fine Gael will ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland - regardless of how remote or rural - has access to high speed broadband. This will be achieved through a combination of commercial investment across Ireland; and a State intervention in those areas, mostly rural areas, where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest.
In 2016, 50% of Irish premises (homes, businesses and farms) had access to high-speed broadband. Today, that stands at 75%. The last 25% are the most isolated and difficult to reach. Fine Gael will ensure that every part of the country can partake in the digital future and the opportunities that presents.
For premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be implemented through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to overcome obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.
Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and Local Authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in Local Authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards by ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements. We will ensure that a local digital strategy for each Local Authority area is developed so that the benefits of infrastructure development under the National Broadband Plan are fully realised economically and socially.
Local Authorities can play a much bigger role in communications. Fine Gael Councillors will work to ensure that Local Authorities:
- Enable street lighting to be used for the purposes of siting small cell technologies, which would greatly improve the speed of 5G rollout.
- Share lists of all scheduled Road Improvements and provide reasonable access to Local Authority infrastructure to all Telecom operators to assist in scheduling of network improvements and installation of essential infrastructure.
- Agree a standardised procedure for seeking planning permission for new mast sites –including: taking account of County Development Plan, pre-planning meetings and standardised Application Pack.
Education and skills as drivers of balanced regional development
Fine Gael is investing in education because we believe education in the single best route to a better life. Almost €10 billion is being invested in education this year – our highest ever budget. This means smaller class sizes, more subject choice at second level, and much wider options for students at third level, from apprenticeships to the newly established Technological Universities.
We will make multi-campus Technological Universities a driver of regional development; provide greater choice to students by strengthening the further education options to build the skill base of sustainable regional sectors. TU Dublin was established in January this year and TU Munster submitted their application in February. We also support the application for a TU for the south east region and Connaught Ulster.
We believe that Education and Training Boards in every part of the country can drive balance regional development. They will achieve this by providing key resources to boost strong enterprises with a skilled workforce and innovative services, capable of building diversified and sustainable markets.
Affordable and accessible childcare
For the first time ever there are more than 200,000 children benefiting from childcare initiatives across the country. In November this year, the new National Childcare Scheme will commence and is designed to extend further subsidies and quality services to parents. Ensuring greater accessibility for families to childcare is also a priority. With the support of City/County Childcare Committees, increased capital funding allows for the creation of new childcare places by providers.
SUPPORTING AND DEVELOPING OUR AGRI-FOOD & FISHERIES SECTOR
Fine Gael remains deeply committed to supporting and developing our agri-food and Fisheries sectors.
Brexit is the biggest challenge facing Irish farmers, fishermen and the food industry and Fine Gael’s focus in Brexit negotiations has been to maintain as close to current arrangements as possible, both in terms of trade and access to fishing waters. Fine Gael is working with the European Commission to ensure the traditional market supports and exceptional aid provisions under the Common Agricultural Policy will be made available to assist farmers, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations, in a no-deal Brexit scenario. We are fully committed to supporting farmers and fishermen through the challenges ahead.
A new CAP
An adequate budget for the CAP post 2020 will be vitally important to support farmers in the years ahead, in a post Brexit environment. Fine Gael is prepared to increase Ireland’s net contribution to the EU, but only if core policies, including the CAP, are protected.
In the period 2014-2020 Fine Gael delivered investment of €12.5bn in EU and exchequer funding for the agriculture sector under the Common Agricultural Policy. This has allowed us to invest in every locality across the country. Fine Gael is committed to securing a good deal post 2020 to continue this investment in rural areas through a range of farm gate schemes. This will allow us to build on the supports we have provided to date for farmers and rural communities and rural infrastructure. We will also ensure a greater focus on climate action and environmental protection in the new CAP.
Fisheries and coastal communities
The Government has doubled the funding available under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund for fishermen and coastal communities, investing €240m in the fisheries sector over the period 2014-2020. We are investing in sustainability and the protection of fishing stocks, Howth harbor securing fish stocks for the long-term in the interests of both fishermen and the environment. Fine Gael is also investing in harbour infrastructure, providing fishermen and coastal communities with better fishing and marine leisure facilities. The rollout of schemes such as the FLAG programme in coastal communities is also encouraging job creation and social wellbeing in local fishing communities across the country.
Protecting the rural environment
Farmers and fishermen are custodians of the rural and coastal environment. We will deliver further progress on climate action, supporting the ambition of the new CAP which proposes to direct 40% of funding towards environmental and climate action measures. We are investing millions of euro in measures aimed at protecting the rural environment such as afforestation, beef genomics, carbon footprinting farms, agri-environment schemes, knowledge transfer measures, water quality, solar equipment on farms, organics and the removal of plastics from the waters around Ireland. We must and will do more to protect our natural resources for future generations.
TOWN, VILLAGE, MAIN STREET ENHANCEMENT
The creation of the Department of Community and Rural Development has added momentum to the work of communities, Chambers and other groups by helping to develop inclusive and sustainable projects around the country. These measures and initiatives are wide ranging and significant in the impact they make towards community engagement, regeneration and revitalisation.
All Fine Gael Councillors will work towards the development and implementation of Local Authority-led tailored masterplans. These plans will ensure that our cities, towns and villages are well positioned to utilise the wide variety of funding streams available. Fine Gael Councillors are strong advocates and encourage participation by Local Authorities and community groups in these funding streams.
We firmly believe in a ground up approach and it is vital that these plans and initiatives are developed in close consultation with local residents, Chamber of Commerce, Town Teams, who are best placed to identify the needs in their own locality.
Financial supports for every community
The Town and Village Renewal Scheme seeks to improve a local environment and amenities, promote the potential for tourism and as a commercial centre in the interests of residents, businesses and visitors. Initiatives such as the development of an education and enterprise hub and community centre (Glenamaddy, Galway), a fitout of a business hub in an old bank building (Edgeworthstown, Longford), and the development of playground tourism (Kildavin, Carlow) help increase sustainability as a place to live and work. €53m has been allocated for this scheme since 2016 alone. Fine Gael Councillors advocate strongly for Council utilisation of these schemes.
The LEADER Programme is a well-known scheme for rural environment, enterprise development and social inclusion projects for both individuals and groups. Over 1,700 projects have been approved for funding since 2016.
Together with the CLAR Scheme, which seeks to attract people to live and work in areas of population decline through small infrastructure projects, towns and villages are receiving greater investment. It is a priority of Fine Gael Councillors that these investments become a tangible benefit to local residents and communities. Fine Gael is entirely committed to the continuation of these schemes.
Play and outdoor recreation
Fine Gael recognises the critical developmental and social importance of providing play and recreation spaces for children and young people. We are committed to ensuring the development, refurbishment as well as new and innovative play and recreation spaces for families. In 2019, Fine Gael in government has increased funding for projects under the Capital Grant Scheme for Play and Recreation by €10,000 to €30,000. Together with local community groups, Fine Gael Councillors continue to press for the provision of more play facilities in their areas and their upgrade. We are committed to increasing funding to Local Authorities on an annual basis.
Providing more outdoor recreation amenities ranging from outdoor gym equipment to walk/ cycleways and greenways has been a priority for Fine Gael. Over 600 projects have been invested in less than three years. The benefits are obvious – residents have recreational opportunities close to home, and visitors are attracted to the area which has knock on business advantages.
This is a priority for Fine Gael. We are committed to increasing and promoting the benefits of play and recreation for children and families across the country.
Heritage-led regeneration brings economic benefits enabling our historic towns to prosper through increased visitor numbers and decreased numbers of vacant buildings and commercial premises. Assistance available to Local Authorities and community groups allows for enhancement, repair and conservation of historic and important buildings in our towns and cities. Fine Gael Councillors are committed to leveraging these funds for localities to ensure long term benefits such as increased visitor throughput, business and employment development as well as enhancing the local landscape for residents and preserving communities’ built heritage.
The Local Government Rates Bill 2018 provides for the modernisation of the legislation governing commercial rates, which currently dates back to the 19th century. Included in the provisions are:
the removal of the requirement for ratepayers to pay their annual bill in two instalments (moieties) and provision to allow ratepayers to pay rates by instalments or a payment plan agreed with the Local Authority;
schemes for the abatement of rates on vacant properties;
the levying of interest on unpaid and overdue rates;
the rendering of unpaid rates to be a charge on relevant property; and
In particular it provides for Local Authorities to introduce rates alleviation schemes to support specific national and Local Authority policy objectives.
This will be a reserved function of Councillors. This will be an important mechanism to allow Councillors to introduce alleviation schemes, for example, to reinvigorate town and village centres across the country which in many locations have been disrupted, to say the least, by the construction of large outof-town developments. The Bill will be enacted later this year.
Enhanced community support
While many towns have bounced back economically from the recession, there are others in need of further targeted support.
Since 2015, the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) has assisted 110,000 people and 5,000 groups. Real results have come from the programme including:
- 5,801 people got new jobs;
- 15,900 new businesses, creating 1,695 full-time new jobs;
- 9,700 higher education qualifications
- 38,300 people participated in lifelong learning courses
- 12,473 young people no in employment, education or training were supported
Fine Gael is committed to ensuring significant funding is put behind this and other programmes such as CLAR, LEADER and the Community Enhancement. Potential projects that can benefit neighbourhoods and reinvigorate the locality with the backing of Local Authorities includes renovation of community centres and amenities, improvements to town parks, CCTV equipment and energy efficiency initiatives. Fine Gael Councillors will work to ensure that their locality has an equal opportunity to gain from these schemes.
Alcohol and substance misuse in our communities
Unfortunately, alcohol and drug misuse takes place across our country and its impact is felt by every community. The 24 Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play an important role in identifying local need, channelling funding, and ensuring co-ordinated action to deliver a targeted response in communities. Services on the ground are delivered by the HSE, Drug and Alcohol Taskforces, as well as Community and Voluntary Sector organisations. Fine Gael is committed through the National Drugs Strategy to pursue a health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug and alcohol misuse.
In order to reduce drug-related intimidation, work is ongoing to strengthen the effectiveness and public awareness of the drug-related intimidation reporting programme by An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network.
Healthcare close to home
Sláintecare is all about delivering care closer to home. This year the Government launched a €20m Sláintecare Integration Fund to encourage initiatives to deliver integrated care and the shift to community care. We will build on this in the coming years. Under Sláintcare, Fine Gael in Government is delivering a number of key initiatives to benefit local communities:
- The new agreement with GPs will see a 40% increase in funding for General Practice over the next four years. This will benefit patients and support GP practices across the country. It includes moving more services to primary care and widening access to free and subsidised health care, including extending free GP care to children aged 6 to 12.
- Around the country, there are now 127 Primary Health Care Centres, with the majority of these delivered by Fine Gael in Government at a rate of ten new openings each year. Around 80 additional centres are at various stages of development and 11 will open this year. Fine Gael Councillors will help implement Sláintecare by advocating the expansion and development primary and community care through support for a similar approach to the DEIS model in education for primary health care in designated disadvantaged areas.
- The Government is investing almost €1bn a year into mental health services around the country. This investment could not succeed without the vital support provided by community, voluntary and advocacy groups to people with mental health difficulties, their families and carers. Fine Gael in Government has recently launched a new €3 million Community Mental Health Fund to allow local groups apply for financial support for the initiatives and programmes they run.
- 17 Local Authorities, through their Local Community Development Committee, have already joined the National Healthy Cities and Counties of Ireland Network. The Healthy Ireland Fund also assists key community initiatives, including the Active School Flag, a ‘Healthy Ireland at Your Library’ initiative, Age Friendly Ireland, and Get Ireland Walking Swimming/Cycling/Running strategies developed in partnership with Sport Ireland. Fine Gael Councillors want all Local Authorities to join.
- Under Sláintecare we will deliver the right care, in the right place and at the right time. Regional Integrated Care Organisations (RICOs) will be established enabling regionally planned care that is right for the needs of the population. In doing so, we will strengthen governance to drive improvements in performance and accountability.
For too long in the past society has placed obstacles in the path of many of our citizens with disabilities - obstacles that prevented them reaching their potential. Fine Gael wants to give people with a disability greater independence and choice in accessing services which best meet their individual needs. We will continue to work with Local Authorities to ensure that the Housing Adaptation Grants are accessible and available to those who need it the most. Fine Gael Councillors will support investment and adaptations that provide improved access in towns and villages, playground, local sporting facilities to those with a disability.
Bringing communities together
The Tidy Towns Competition and more recently Men’s Sheds are two household names across Ireland. They have gone from strength to strength and will continue to be advocated for by Fine Gael at national and local level.
Local services and initiatives that enhance and sustain their communities will continue to receive Fine Gael backing. They are the backbone of our society. The Community Services Programme which provided over €40m in 2018 to more than 400 community organisations countrywide. Fine Gael Councillors will continue to endorse locally developed projects that improve the lives of dependent residents.
Successful projects providing invaluable community services include
- Tralee Community Care provides daily hot meal to older people and to a local creche and special needs school.
- Energy Action provides home insulation and energy efficiency services for older people in the Dublin area.
Realising the potential of our public libraries
A key resource across Ireland are the more than 300 public libraries under the leadership of our Local Authorities. Fine Gael in Government is committed to ensuring continued innovation and expansion of projects such as My Open Library, enhanced digital capacity, new builds and new mobile libraries. All of these projects allow out library network reach out and attract more patrons on a 24-7-365 basis.
Bringing creativity to every community and school
The Creative Ireland Programme is bringing creativity to communities across Ireland, with over 500 community-based celebrations of culture and arts taking place last year as part of Cruinniu na nÓg and Creative Schools, involving thousands of children and young people and nurturing their imaginations and inventiveness. Fine Gael Councillors will ensure that their Local Authority is fully engaged with Creative Ireland over its remaining four years, in particular that their Local Authority’s Culture and Creativity Teams, ensuring that the programmes benefits are felt in a meaningful way in communities throughout Ireland.
A sustainable post office network
As communications technologies change, the role of the postal services must evolve so that they continue to serve their communities effectively. An Post’s Plan will make sure that communities across Ireland have the same access to goods as in major world cities; re-invent the post office network so every town in Ireland has a modern post office, providing the financial technology services customers need in a cashless society; develop new strategic partnerships to leverage its network.
A €30m loan to An Post has been made available to assist the renewal of the post office network and to ensure that we can continue to have 5 day per week mails delivery service. Our priority now is to look at how we can deliver new accessible services for all:
- A new Digital Assist scheme is being piloted in 10 post offices, where post offices are kitted out to help citizens engage with services online.
- Ensure we use the post office network to deliver services to those citizens who do not want to use, or are unable to use services online.
- Promote locally the “Trading Online Voucher” so local business keeps up with the changing consumer patterns
- Support community education for digital literacy
- Diversifying and growing its financial service offerings
IMPROVING TRANSPORT LINKS FOR ALL PARTS OF IRELAND
Fine Gael has always placed importance on accessibility for all parts of the country. This is recognised in ‘Project Ireland 2040’, which provides funding for an extensive road building programme ensuring that all parts of Ireland are linked not just to Dublin, but also to each other. It also places a particular focus on improving the access to the North-West, which was neglected when it came to roads investment during the Celtic Tiger.
Fine Gael will ensure that there is a strong pipeline of future road development projects so that there can be steady and sustainable improvements in our road network in the decades ahead.
Fine Gael is conscious that despite the strong recovery in the public finances, we have not yet reached the level of roads funding that is necessary to properly maintain our regional and local roads. The €4.5 billion in regional and local roads funding under ‘Project Ireland 2040’, in addition to the €7.3 billion regional road accessibility in national roads, will remedy this and ensure that a ‘steady state’ funding is achieved from next year.
We will work to ensure that with regard to local and regional roads, Local Authorities have the greatest level of discretion into which roads projects are prioritised and funded.
A decisive move to public transport (Trains, Trams, Buses and Bikes)
‘Project Ireland 2040’ is the first time that public transport has been placed at the heart of government expenditure and in the planning process. Over the next decade, more than €7 billion is committed to new public transport projects in our cities, while future planning and development is required to place public transport at its centre.
Fine Gael is fully committed to over the next decade delivering the BusConnects programme in Dublin, Cork and Galway. This will significantly reduce journey times on buses, provide more direct routes and make the bus a significantly more attractive prospect for commuters. It will also segregate bikes from other traffic, thereby making cycling a safer, more enjoyable, and more attractive prospect also.
Fine Gael acknowledges that real concerns have been raised with individual BusConnects routes. It is important that the National Transport Authority works with Local Authority members and communities to ensure that legitimate concerns are dealt with and resolved, while also delivering the broader benefit of the project to commuters stuck in buses and cars for hours every week.
Fine Gael in government will also ensure the delivery of the Metrolink and DART Expansion projects in the Greater Dublin Area. This will ensure that Dublin has a transport network on a par with its European and global peers. As stated in ‘Project Ireland 2040’, the new Cork Transport Strategy will evaluate the potential of a Light Rail Corridor or a Bus Rapid Transit to serve the envisaged huge increase in population in the Cork area. Further movement away from cars and towards walking, cycling, bus, tram and rail will help reduce our emissions. The decision outlined within ‘Project Ireland 2040’ to ensure that all new buses purchased for the urban bus network from mid-2019 are low emission will mean that the emissions from public transport will be reduced.
Improving Rural Transport
Fine Gael recognises the value of rural transport to rural communities, particularly for the elderly and those vulnerable to social isolation. We have expanded the Local Link service which provides safe, secure and reliable public transport in local and rural areas. In addition, Fine Gael is continuing to explore other avenues to see how rural transport can be improved for communities throughout Ireland.
Commitment to the Local Improvement Scheme
Fine Gael in Government re-established the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS). €48 million has been allocated to LIS since it was reintroduced in 2017 with over 1,100 rural roads improved in the last year. Funding will be increased in the years ahead for this important rural roads’ improvement scheme.
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL TOURISM
Tourism is at the heart of the Irish economy, providing opportunities in all parts of the country – urban and rural. 2018 was a record year for Irish tourism creating jobs and business revenue in all parts of the country.
Local Authorities are central to this success and Fine Gael will ensure that close partnership continues in the years ahead. At a national level, we will ensure that Tourism Ireland is supported to effectively market Ireland overseas. We will also ensure that Fáilte Ireland is enabled to increase its capital investment programme, as well its backing for festivals, events and targeted campaigns.
New routes off the Wild Atlantic Way are being developed to encourage wider touring. The Shannon Estuary Drive was completed in 2018, relieving congestion in local tourism hotspots. In addition, €1.1m has been awarded to nine projects under New Horizons grants scheme for Skellig/Connemara coasts and Aran Islands. In all 31 areas, we will ensure that Local Authorities place tourism at the centre of their economic development plans. Fine Gael Councillors will fully back their Local Authority bids for funding to develop towns in their area as ‘destination towns’ for tourists.
Over the next 4 years, €56m will be invested into delivering tourism greenways. We are determined to stimulate rural tourism opportunities and build on the success of established greenways, biking trails. Fine Gael intends to create a significant network of greenways that are attractive to domestic and foreign tourists alike and encourage longer stays in more rural areas. Fine Gael Councillors will champion projects with such tourism potential.
MORE SPORTING OPPORTUNITIES
In 2017, the Government approved the first ever Sports Policy for Ireland with a commitment to double the spend in sport (incl. community, high performance, Women and Disability Sports) by 2025. At the heart of this are policies to improve sporting participation and Local Authorities are central to the delivery of this. Local Authorities have a key role to play in the delivery of the public spaces and infrastructure that we need for sport and physical activity. Fine Gael will ensure that the provision of public spaces for sporting activities are to the fore of all development plans within their own Local Authority area.
Fine Gael Councillors will also demand that each Local Authority develops a local sports plan consistent with the overall vision and objectives of this National Sports Policy. These local plans will be developed and implemented in cooperation with Local Sports Partnership, clubs, communities, schools and partners within and beyond sport. In parallel, Fine Gael will ensure that each Local Authority carries out an audit of the sporting facilities within their boundaries.
This audit will help identify the sporting resources available within the county, and will help ensure that future funding by central and local government is best used. Improving access to sporting facilitate to ensure the greatest level of sporting participation will be central to these local sports plans
This year, we will see more Gardaí out on the beat through the redeployment of an additional 500 Gardaí from administrative roles to frontline policing duties, through continuing recruitment which will see 600 new recruits in 2019, and through the implementation of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CFPI) which places community policing and Garda visibility at the heart of its recommendations. In total almost 2,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána since the Garda College was reopened in 2014. It is important that the increase in Garda numbers results in effective community partnerships to reduce crime in our localities.
Each Council area has a Joint Policing Committees (JPC). Their purpose is to provide a dedicated forum to encourage consultation, cooperation and synergy on policing and crime issues between An Garda Síochána, Local Authority officials, elected representatives and the community and voluntary sectors.
The network of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) all around the country have the potential to be really valuable local forums, bringing the community together with local Gardaí to reduce crime. But, in most cases, that potential has not been realised to date. An analysis of the JPCs by the CFPI has shown that while some JPCs work particularly effectively, most do not. Fine Gael will work to change this situation and to ensure that Joint Policing Committees really work in every locality. Fine Gael Councillors will be a strong an active voice to ensure that the concerns of local people about crime are clearly communicated to An Garda Síochána so that they can be dealt with effectively.
Community Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) scheme is important to communities. The CCTV scheme can be seen as an additional deterrent that helps to prevent crime and to assist the Gardaí in apprehending criminals where a crime takes place in a locality. In Government, Fine Gael has provided funding for a multiannual Community CCTV scheme, allocating €1,000,000 per annum for the period 2017-2020. The scheme assists local organisations by providing a grant of up to €40,000. Within this limit, grants of up to 60% of the total capital costs of the scheme may be awarded. Since the scheme was established, 20 Community CCTV schemes have been established in five counties
Clarification on the impact of new data protection laws on the Community CCTV Scheme has been provided by the Data Protection Commission confirming that data protection is not a barrier to the establishment or maintenance of authorised CCTV. We will introduce new elements to the current scheme to allow communities to draw down grants to allow for the upgrading and extension of existing schemes.
Senior alert scheme
Fine Gael Councillors will advocate for the increased provision of personalised monitored alarms for older people through the Senior Alert Scheme. It provides confidence and allows independent living for many. Since the scheme began in 2015, almost 45,000 people have received approval.
AN GHAEILGE A CHUR CHUN CINN I BPOBAIL
Tá cur chun cinn na Gaeilge i bpobail ar fud na tíre lárnach do thodhchaí na teanga agus d’fhonn na cuspóirí atá leagtha amach sa Straitéis Fiche Bliain don Ghaeilge a bhaint amach.
Tá oideachas ríthábhachtach maidir le forás a chur faoin teanga. Chomh maith leis na haidhmeanna atá leis an gcéad Pholasaí ón Stát don Oideachas Gaeltachta a seoladh sa bhliain 2016, caithfimid súil ar na bealaí is fearr chun forbairt Gaelscoileanna agus naíonraí a spreagadh i bpobail lasmuigh de na ceantair sheanbhunaithe Ghaeltachta. Tá tábhacht ar leith leis sin i dtaobh an phróisis pátrúnachta nua ina bhfuil vóta i gceist leis chun tuairimí tuismitheoirí agus caomhnóirí a fháil i leith scoileanna nua.
Tá rannpháirtíocht an phobail ríthábhachtach chun cur le líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge. Spreagfaimid eagraíochtaí áitiúla chun imeachtaí Gaeilge a eagrú - ranganna agus gníomhaíochtaí eile ina measc.
Táimid i bhfách go mór le Líonraí nua Gaeilge a fhorbairt - in éineacht le líonraí atá ann cheana i gCluain Dolcáin, Inis agus Baile Locha Riach atá riachtanach chun tacú le ceantair nua Ghaeltachta a chruthú agus tacú leo.