From transforming vacant buildings in our rural communities to putting farmers at the forefront of clean, green energy production, Fine Gael has a bold ambition for rural Ireland.
Speaking today at the Fine Gael Special Conference on Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister Martin Heydon identified micro-generation as an area with huge untapped potential for the rural economy.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys also committed to a introducing a new funding stream to support Local Authorities to buy empty buildings so that they can be used to the benefit of local communities.
Minister for Community and Rural Development Heather Humphreys said, “Through the delivery of the Government’s ambitious rural development policy, Our Rural Future, Fine Gael wants to ensure our rural communities are strong, vibrant places to live, work and raise a family.
“I am determined to tackle dereliction in our rural towns and villages. I will shortly announce details of a new funding stream to support Local Authorities to purchase vacant buildings such as former banks so that they can be taken into public ownership and converted for community use.”
Minister Heydon, the Minster of State in the Department of Agriculture, said, “The small scale generation of energy by farmers can not only increase income streams but also represents an opportunity to lower the carbon footprint of the agricultural sector.
“Farmers have repeatedly stated that they are willing to play their part in decarbonising our energy system, and the issue of micro-generation has been raised with me frequently in recent weeks. It is emerging as one of the top agricultural issues, and I imagine it will only develop into the future.
“I believe there is a huge opportunity for farmers and rural communities to play a major role in this area. That is certainly Fine Gael’s ambition, and we must put policies and investment in place to support this.
“I am proposing the Fine Gael National Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (NAFRD) forum’s first piece of work should be to explore this area with the aim of having a concrete policy position in place within three months – to ensure that we unlock the potential of farmers and rural Ireland in clean, green energy generation.”
An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said, “Fine Gael is fully committed to a thriving rural economy and we’re working hard to protect these jobs and businesses. The rural and agriculture sector plays a vital role in Ireland’s economy, with agri-food exports accounting for 9.5% of total exports and making a significant contribution to employment with 164,400 jobs in rural and coastal areas.”