Latest Laois News: Reimagining Rural Laois and Ireland with Government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ policy

Latest Laois News: Reimagining Rural Laois and Ireland with Government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ policy

Major focus on attracting Remote Workers to rural communities

The Government has today published Our Rural Future, the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades.

The policy reflects the unprecedented change in living and working patterns during COVID-19 and the significant opportunities this presents for rural communities – from remote working and revitalising our town centres to job creation, developing a green economy and enhancing our outdoor amenities.

The five year strategy was launched in Croke Park by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Transport and the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan. 

Broadband rollout to bring more opportunities

Our Rural Future sets out a blueprint for the development of rural Ireland over the next five years.

It is supported by 150 commitments across Government, which will address the challenges facing communities and deliver new opportunities for people living in rural areas.

photo of someone working on laptop
Parts of Laois countryside still wrong side of ‘Digital Divide’ as gaps in Broadband rollout have been identified. This needs to be addressed to allow ‘Our Rural Future’ policy to work

The policy will help rural Ireland to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, enable long-term development of rural areas, and create more resilient rural economies and communities for the future.

Minister Pippa Hackett had this to say about the announcement:

“As someone who lives in rural Ireland, I am really looking forward to seeing what Our Rural Future can deliver in the years ahead. I’m delighted to see that many areas, which are important to me, are included. It asks us to deliver a close to nature forestry model for Ireland, and my recently announced Project Woodland will play a major role in delivering that. 

“Working closely with farmers will also be important for our rural future – to deliver for nature through initiatives such as local led schemes and organic farming, and to support more horticulture, and also to work with farmers to reduce emissions and enhance biodiversity in the Agriculture sector. 

“I am also looking forward to supporting local authorities to expand the number of farmers’ markets and farm shops around the country, and to showcase local food produce from farmers, growers, and food producers.”

Speaking at the launch of the policy, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“Ireland is heading into an era of unprecedented change, and with that comes unprecedented opportunity.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have discovered new ways of working and we have rediscovered our communities. 

“The policy we launch today, Our Rural Future, provides a framework for the development of rural areas over the next five years.  

This 5-Year Strategy to be underpinned by updated National Development Plan

“The policy is forward-looking and ambitious and addresses both the challenges facing rural areas and the opportunities which rural economies and communities can capitalise on. 

“The Government’s vision is for a rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.  

Photo of Rathdowney's Main Street
The issue of poor Broadband in Rathdowney amongst other areas in Laois was raised at a recent Laois County Council meeting. This needs to be sorted immediately.

“That vision is built on the talent, skills and creativity of people in rural communities; on the importance of vibrant and lived-in rural places; and on the potential to create quality jobs and sustain our shared environment.  

“Rural Ireland will play a central role in our recovery from the impact of COVID-19. 

“The commitments outlined today will benefit individuals, families, communities and businesses. It will enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of people living in rural areas. 

“It will build resilient and sustainable rural communities and economies through investment, supports and services. And it will ensure that rural communities are at the heart of designing and delivering responses that meet local needs.”

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys said:

“Our Rural Future represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development for Ireland.

“As we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to reimagine rural Ireland and harness the talent, skills and creativity running through our rural communities.

Revitalising town centres, rural jobs, adventure tourism, green economy and island development central to new policy

“For decades we have seen global trends where young people leave their local communities to live and work in larger cities. As we emerge from COVID-19 we will never have a better opportunity to reverse that long-standing trend.

“The move to remote working, underpinned by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, has the potential to transform Rural Ireland like never before.

photo of person working on laptop with cup of coffee on desk
Many people in Laois will benefit from remote working if the broadband is good enough.

“It will allow people to work from their own local communities, revitalise our town centres, reduce commuting times, lower transport emissions and most importantly – improve the quality of life of our people.”

An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said:

“We want to have more people working in all parts of Ireland, with good quality jobs on offer and good career prospects. The COVID-19 pandemic has already shown us what’s possible in terms of remote working and flexible working. Our Rural Future is one of the ways that the Government is making that a permanent option.

 “Our Rural Future will help the tourism and hospitality sectors to recover after the pandemic, create jobs in the Green Economy and the Agri-food sector, and make it easier to set up and grow a business in Rural Ireland.

New opportunities in areas like eHealth, remote learning, online trading and new technologies

 “It means more people will be able to live in their communities, or move to new ones, with the option of good quality employment. It will mean less commuting, and more vibrant communities as people have more time to spend with their families, their neighbours, and local clubs and organisations.

“Broadband and new technologies are key to making this happen. That work has already started. I am proud to have been part of the Government that kicked off the National Broadband Plan – the biggest investment in rural Ireland since electrification. And I’m equally proud to be part of the Government that is now making it happen.”

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan stated:

“Now is the time to be ambitious for rural Ireland. The governments investment in climate action will bring new job opportunities to rural communities, in areas such as renewable energy, retrofitting and sustainable farming and tourism. The National Broadband Plan will act as a key enabler for the development of new businesses in regional and rural Ireland, together with an increased opportunity for people to work from home. Through the Just Transition Fund, Government is supporting the retraining and reskilling of rural workers and assisting local communities and businesses to adjust to the low carbon transition.

photo of young adults working together in front of a laptop
Laois to become a ‘Digital Hub’?

“We want to put the development and regeneration of our rural towns and villages at the heart of decision making, so that they are vibrant centres where people can live, work and socialise, with walking, cycling and public transport options connecting people and places. The Government will continue to support this active mobility through the National Transport Authority, with €72m in funding being allocated in 2021 for high quality cycling and walking infrastructure for our more rural towns and villages across the country. Through the implementation of Our Rural Future, Government will seize this unprecedented opportunity for rural Ireland.”

Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025 is available here.