Our Rural Future – Minister Humphreys Op Ed
Op-Ed by Heather Humphreys TD – Minister for Social Protection, Rural and Community Development
This week, the Government published Our Rural Future – our new five year policy for rural Ireland.
It comes on the back of one of the most difficult years in our country’s history.
Covid-19 has changed the way we live, the way we work, the way we do business, the way we socialise together.
But it also showed us something else – that when things get tough, our communities rally and support each other.
That deep sense of community and resilience has been certainly evident in rural Ireland over the past 12 months.
So that’s what this policy is about: Building on the strengths of rural communities, reimaging the type of rural future we want for our young people and seizing on the opportunities created by the Pandemic such as remote working.
As we come out of Covid, we now have a golden opportunity to revalue the type of rural Ireland that we want to see in five years’ time.
As someone who hails from one of the most rural parts of the country, Aghabog in Co Monaghan, I know the challenges that rural communities face.
And I also know rural Ireland’s number one asset: it’s people.
Our Rural Future is about creating opportunities for our rural citizens, young and old.
It’s about creating good quality jobs.
It’s about allowing people to live and work in their own communities.
A huge focus of this ambitious policy is remote working.
Remote Working was just a concept 18 months ago.
It’s now a reality for tens of thousands of people.
The benefits are huge; reduced commuting times, more time spent with family, increased footfall in rural towns, and most importantly – a better quality of life for people.
Through Our Rural Future we want to embed a remote working culture and make it a permanent feature for the benefit of our local communities.
To do that, we will develop a network of over 400 remote working hubs, move 20% of public servants to remote working this year, develop specific public sector hubs in regional towns and provide funding to turn vacant properties in town centres into co-working and hotdesking spaces.
We will invest heavily in broadband, in our town centres, in our outdoor amenities, in our roads and in our communities.
If Covid-19 has taught us one thing – it’s that we must think outside the box.
Now is the time to be bold and brave and shape a new future for our rural communities.
This policy is about a ground up approach.
And so today I say to our PPN networks,
our LEADER companies, our LCDCs,
our Tidy Towns, our Sports clubs,
our Local Chambers, our Social Enterprises,
our Mens Sheds and our Local Development Associations –
You are the people who will make the difference and shape your communities future.