Minister visits Clare rural development projects

Minister Heather Humphreys – Photo: Fine Gael Press

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD has visited six new Clare projects supporting job creation in rural areas, addressing de-population of rural communities, and providing improvements in local towns and villages.

Each of the projects in Ennis, Cross, Kilrush, Lissycasey, Kilmihil and Tulla have received funding under the Rural Development Investment Programme which includes a number of integrated funding interventions including Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), Town and Village Renewal Scheme, CLÁR and Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.

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The opening of the Cross Community/Digital Hub and Ennis Digital Hub represents a significant milestone for Clare County Council’s DigiClare initiative and brings to 10 the number of hubs now operational across the county. Located in the Quin Road Business Park, the Ennis Digital Hub comprises hotdesk facilities, meeting rooms, training rooms and business incubation units.  The project has been funded by Clare County Council with additional funding obtained through the government’s Connected Hubs programme

The Cross Community/Digital Hub has emerged from the re-purposing of the former local national school building into a remote working facility and community social space. Facilities include remote working, hot desks, high speed broadband, and meeting and training rooms. The project was funded by Clare County Council, Kilballyowen Development Association and the Department of Rural & Community Development under Town & Village Renewal Accelerated Measures in 2020.

Speaking in Cross today, Minister Humphreys said the government, through the ‘Our Rural Future’ strategy, has identified remote working as a key commitment aimed at creating vibrant rural communities.

“Clare is well-placed to respond to the increased shift to remote working because of the pandemic with a comprehensive network of hubs which, complemented by numerous Broadband Connection Points, are providing families and individuals with the option to live and work in rural communities throughout the county,” stated the Minister.

The official opening of the Hubs today coincided with the launch of DigiClare’s Remote Working Prospectus which will be distributed across Clare, Ireland and abroad to showcase the county as an established remote working location in Ireland.

Minister Humphreys commented, “DigiClare’s network of hubs supports not only benefits those who choose to live and work in their community but also seeks to attract those commuting or living in cities to consider moving to a more rural location, which can offer them a better quality of life.”

Commenting on her Department’s recent €209,000 allocation under the Connected Hubs programme towards the upgrade of other hub facilities at Ennistymon, Kilrush, Flagmount and Feakle, the Minister said, “This investment enables the local authority to optimise the opportunities and to enhance these remote working facilities to adapt to meet the ever-changing demands.”

Councillor PJ Ryan, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, said Clare’s Digital Strategy, complemented by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and the Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026, has sought to ensure that broadband is leveraged to help alleviate the root causes of rural depopulation.

“The county’s network of Digital Hubs has been extremely busy over the past 18 months, and it is great to see the facilities being utilised by increasing numbers of people from all sections of the community from local residents to students, local enterprises and entrepreneurs, visitors to the county, relocated individuals and web developers,” added Councillor Ryan.

He added, “I wish to acknowledge the work of the Digital Team and Rural Development Directorate of Clare County Council, as well as the Council’s General Design office, on the delivery of these newest Hubs which will help to further bridge the digital divide as well as create smarter communities in Clare.”

During her visit to Clare, the Minister officially opened the Lissycasey Community Amenity Area project, which received funding under the Department’s CLÁR programme to develop the community carpark and public areas around the local crèche, primary school, GAA grounds and playground.  The area serves as a hub for community activity and provides a safe space away from the main road for people to safely attend.

The Minister also met with community representatives and Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) at Kilmihil People’s Park.  The Leader-funded project comprises an integrated sports, leisure and community complex comprising of an open plan park area, recreational equipment and facilities available to all age groups from the village, the neighbouring communities and beyond. The project was also the beneficiary of CLÁR funding in 2020 from the DRCD of 50K towards the development of outdoor amenity area, public lighting, footpath & crossing.

Minister Humphreys also visited the Cnoc na Gaoithe Cultural Centre in Tulla, acknowledging the project development works which is aimed at promoting and preserving the East Clare town’s rich cultural and musical tradition.  Funded through the Department’s Town & Village Renewal Scheme & current project funded under RRDF, the facility has been extended to provide B&B accommodation for visitors which will enable the centre to host Cultural Exchange programmes attracting an international audience.

Meanwhile, the Minister visited the Vandeleur Walled Gardens Project Development works in Kilrush which are subject of a significant investment project. Council County Council recently received approval to proceed to construction stage. The proposed works at the popular visitor attraction include an interpretive museum, multifunction room, retail, accessible facilities, a new gardener maintenance building along with the development of a new visitor experience design and approach for the complex and woodlands.  Additional funding support of €250,819 from the Department of Rural & Community Development has brought the overall Department funding received under RRDF to €1,975,819.

Speaking about the project, Councillor Joe Killeen, Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, said, “The overall investment in Vandeleur, is part of a Visitor Development Strategy, maximising the use of the important heritage landmark, prolonging the life of the protected structures in a sustainable manner, and adding to the expanding amenities in West Clare and along the Wild Atlantic Way. This project will form a strong supporting asset to the local community and tourism in Clare addressing the objectives of the Clare Tourism Strategy 2030.”

“I would like to acknowledge the ongoing support from the Minister’s Department, Kilrush Amenity Trust, Coillte, the team and management of Vandeleur Walled Gardens and Centre, West Clare Municipal District and Clare County Council staff, together with the design team, appointed contractor and the support of loyal customers and visitors without whom the venture would not exist,” added the Leas Cathaoirleach.

Clare County Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling – Photo: Arthur Ellis

Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, said the projects visited by Minister Humphreys align to the objectives of the Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026 and Our Rural Future (2021-2025) for growth in rural communities.

“Massive strides are being taken in communities the length and breadth of Clare due to the strategic and close working relationship between the local authority and community groups,” stated Mr. Dowling.  “The collaborative vision set out in the Clare Rural Development Strategy to address rural challenges in a creative and practical way is being realised and is having a positive economic and social impact in our towns and villages.”

“I look forward to the continued support of the Minister and her Department under the government’s new strategy for rural development towards the revitalisation, repopulation and development of our rural towns and villages, to deliver new opportunities for people living in rural Clare in the years to come,” concluded Mr. Dowling.



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