Monday, 29 March 2021

Unprecedented opportunity for Rural Development post COVID-19

Rural areas support a range of enterprises, from micro-enterprises to large multi-national companies. These enterprises employ hundreds of thousands of people in rural Ireland and contribute significantly to our national economy. Agri-food and Tourism, two of our strongest indigenous enterprise sectors, depend heavily on the natural capital and human resources in rural areas. Apart from more traditional sectors, rural-based enterprises support employment in a diverse range of sectors such as Financial Services, MedTech, Agri-tech, and Creative Industries. They serve a wide range of markets, from local to international level.

A key challenge for rural businesses in all sectors will be to recover from the impact of COVID-19, with Government supports where appropriate, and adapt their products and services to reflect new consumer behaviours and capitalise on emerging opportunities. The Government will also continue to support those who are unemployed, with a particular focus on investing in people and their potential, to enable them to secure sustainable and quality employment.

As our economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19, IDA Ireland, and Enterprise Ireland will continue to embed job growth within the regions by building on recent successes and setting ambitious targets for the coming years. The IDA is aiming to win 400 investments for regions outside of Dublin over the period 2021-2024 and has set specific targets for each region.

Rural economies need to diversify to build resilience and to support sustained population growth. External factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have highlighted the need for businesses to be adaptable and innovative. The focus of the Government’s enterprise and job creation policy is on supporting quality jobs that will be resilient into the future. Agriculture will remain a key contributor to rural economies and will be a significant source of income and of direct and indirect employment in rural areas. However, the sector will need to innovate and diversify in response to the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte welcomed the strategy:

As a Minister living and working in rural Ireland, I see the life being sucked out of our rural towns and villages, lack of opportunities for young and not so young to study, live and work in their own place.   In a way the pandemic firmly placed a spotlight on the inequity and also proved that is is possible to study, work and live well in your own home town.  However, the onus is on government to support communities, business, and employers every step of the way in this transition.  I look forward to ensuring this strategy is delivered and all our towns and villages benefit.

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

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

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.