When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach, one of his first acts was to create the Department of Rural and Community Development, to ensure that the challenge of rural development was properly prioritised. This Department has grown and expanded since and continues to be led by a Fine Gael Minister.
‘Realising Our Potential: Action Plan for Rural Development’, brought forward by Fine Gael in 2017, introduced the first-ever coordinated, cross-government and cross-agency approach to supporting rural Ireland.
‘Project Ireland 2040’ – the plan for Ireland’s future – puts rural communities and the rural economy at the heart of government policy. It contains the €165bn National Development Plan (NDP) – recently renewed and expanded – and, for the first time, integrates the National Planning Framework with the NDP to promote sustainable growth and development.
In 2021, Fine Gael led the development and launch of ‘Our Rural Future’, a framework for the development of rural Ireland over the next five years. Containing 152 measures, through the Plan we are: supporting employment and careers in rural areas; revitalising rural towns and villages, enhancing public services; supporting the sustainability of agriculture, the marine and forestry; and driving improvements in infrastructure for rural communities.
Fine Gael introduced the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which, alongside the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, continues to support key development projects across Ireland. To date, over €252m has been allocated to 164 projects nationwide under the Rural Fund alone.
Fine Gael has been instrumental in the development and rollout of the National Broadband Plan. The NBP is the largest ever telecommunications project undertaken by the Irish State and will ensure that all people and businesses have access to high-speed broadband, no matter where they are located. The NBP is pivotal to our plans to support and enable remote working.
Fine Gael has delivered on the ambition and targets set out in Food Harvest 2020 and Foodwise 2025 – the strategies outlining our ambition for the agri-food and seafood sectors. We will continue to provide an ambitious blueprint for the industry for the years ahead, growing the agri-food sector sustainably into the future and supporting vital employment in rural Ireland