The Government plans to invest significantly in remote working infrastructure, accelerate the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan and revitalise rural villages and towns in the next five years.
Under its five-year rural policy, Our Rural Future, the Government has outlined a range of measures to address the “challenges facing rural areas”, an Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.
There are 150 commitments in the plan, which are aimed at enhancing the wellbeing and quality of life of people living in rural areas.
The Government is to invest up to €2.7bn in the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan and explore how the initiative can be accelerated to deliver connectivity as soon as possible in rural areas.
It will “implement the national remote work strategy to facilitate employees in working from home, or from co-working spaces, which will support the retention of skilled people in rural areas” and introduce legislation this year to provide workers with the right to request remote work.
It will explore the potential to develop a pilot scheme to support the use of rural pubs as community spaces and hubs for local services.
From a farming perspective, there is nothing new in the rural policy.
Under the plan, the Government will conduct a review of the means test for Farm Assist to ensure farmers receive the appropriate level of support through this scheme and enact Fair Deal legislation.
It says implanting a new agri-food strategy to 2030, supporting farm diversification and implementing Ag-Climatise will be policy measures.
It includes the new REPS-2 programme as a policy measure, stating that Government will “pilot a results-based agri-environment scheme to reward farmers for adapting to more sustainable methods of farming with a view to the development of a new agri-environment scheme capable of delivering broad environmental and biodiversity benefits that will align financial supports with climate objectives”.
It plans to publish a successor to the forestry programme, with a planting target of 8,000ha/year.