Monday 19 April 2021
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced €75 million for 24 landmark regeneration projects in rural communities across the country.
- Old Cinemas, Courthouses, Hotels, Convents, and Market Houses to be transformed into remote working hubs, libraries, e-learning, cultural, enterprise and community spaces
- Development of pedestrian zones, green areas and outdoor public spaces to breathe new life into town centre
- Focus on combatting dereliction, increasing the vibrancy of towns and regenerating iconic town centre buildings with new purpose.
The funding, which is being provided under the €1 Billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will support the key objectives of Our Rural Future – the Government’s ambitious new policy for Rural Ireland.
A large number of the successful projects provide for the regeneration of vacant town centre buildings as remote working and hot-desking facilities. These projects will support remote workers and commuters to work from and remain in their own local community.
Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte, welcomed the news that €2.55 million has been allocated to the development of Portumna Courthouse, Co. Galway. After being vacant for two decades, the courthouse will be the site of new multi-purpose arts, remote working and social space, with the courtyard becoming an outdoor social space and cafe.
Portumna native, Minister of State Anne Rabbitte commented:
These projects will breathe new life into towns and villages across the country making them attractive and vibrant places for people to live, work, socialise and raise a family.
When I launched Our Rural Future, I said I wanted to see innovative and exciting projects coming forward that would make a real and lasting difference in our rural towns and villages – that’s exactly what the projects we are announcing today are about.
It is absolutely clear that Local Authorities and communities across the country have picked up the ball on remote working and ran with it. I am delighted that so many of the successful projects today will see the development of remote working and hot desking facilities in rural towns and villages.
These projects will not only enable people to live and work in their community but they will also see iconic town centre buildings given a new lease of life and increase football for local businesses.
The Minister continued,
A large number of these projects also include significant public realm works such as developing new pedestrian areas in town centres, creating new green areas and developing new outdoor public spaces for community and cultural events – these projects will help to make our towns attractive, lived in and vibrant places.
Today you are seeing Our Rural Future in action – and this is only the beginning. In the coming weeks, I will be inviting new applications under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and bringing forward an enhanced Town and Village Renewal Scheme which will provide rural communities with more opportunities to make exciting and impactful projects like these a reality.
The Galway to Athlone Cycleway will complete the circa 270 km car-free corridor between Galway and Dublin for cyclists and walkers.
The project is being led by the local authorities, Galway City Council and Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath County Councils.
Consultants, RPS from Galway, were appointed in 2020 to start with a blank canvas to identify a project study area and constraints. This work is being informed by public consultation before the project team undertakes environmental studies and detailed design.
A planning application will then be prepared for An Bord Pleanála’s consideration in around three years’ time. The project team appreciates that there is an impact on landholdings and wants to assure landowners that it is listening and will do all it can to work with them to manage that impact. That is why it is important for landowners to engage with the project team to ensure they can inform the design from the earliest stages.
The Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport is developing the National and Regional Greenways across Ireland to enhance tourism and contribute to rural development.
The new Galway to Athlone Cycleway is a large section of the Galway to Dublin Cycleway that will extend to 270km, making it Ireland’s longest Cycleway so far. The Galway to Dublin Cycleway will be a world-class amenity for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users to enjoy – locals and tourists alike.It will even facilitate the first leg of the international EuroVelo network of long-distance cycling trails in Europe and will link Galway to Moscow!
The project aims to:
- Maximise the value of existing infrastructure and natural amenity
- Protect areas of environmental sensitivity through the design process and in future maintenance and management
- Develop a tourism experience that caters for a broad range of visitors
- Be designed to international best practice and in accordance with adopted standards
- Give regular access to visitor attractions and services along the corridor
- Be connected with public transport hubsBe in line with the Government’s five ‘S’ criteria –
- Scenic, Sustainable, Strategic, Segregated and See and Do,
in conjunction with environmental, engineering and financial considerations.
The Wild Geese East Galway have partnered with Booniverse Limited since 2019 with the specific goal of raising the profiles of the main towns and villages of East Galway. Our vision was first muted at a presentation at Portumna Castle in July 2019 where Booniverse Agency demonstrated the features and functionality and community benefits of the app to local business, services and folks.
It gives us great pleasure to announce that Portumna is the first town in East Galway to go live on the xplore local app. A group of enterprising local TY students and university students volunteered and worked assiduously on the backend gathering and inputting the data on each local business and local attraction.
The app has community at its heart and in addition to promoting local business, the xplore local app will include the following features designed to promote our towns both to local tourists, and, as we slowly emerge and recover from the pandemic to all visitors.
A mobile digital infrastructure for the towns of East Galway is central to the ongoing strategy of the Wild Geese Taskforce enabling us to:
- support and promote local business
- engage with and build communities
- promote local, national and international tourism
- build modern community alerts and notices
- pitch our towns on the national and international stage as a place to live and work remotely
Already, the self-guided tours, interactive hikes, and trails are proving popular with communities during the very restrictive measures imposed by the pandemic.
Nobody would dispute that 2020 had more than its fair share of darkness. But when we look back at all the dark aspects of 2020 and turn them over, we see that some have light on the other side.
2020 was a crucible, a time of immense trials and unspeakable losses that has also created unforeseen possibilities for change. We’re in the midst of a winter that, as experts predicted, will be dark. But with vaccines being rolled out, and with the winter solstice now behind us, each day gives us a bit more light.
The pandemic may have put a sudden stop to travel, commuting, sporting events, dining out, and seeing our friends whenever and wherever we wanted. But it also made us realise how many parts of our frenetic, harried, and over-scheduled lives just weren’t necessary.
Throughout the lockdown, social media and news outlets have inundated us with stories and images of nature “returning” to our cities and towns, with dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice. In parks and green spaces, new desire paths have quickly developed as people make their own routes in the urban landscape.
We relished these images because they were shining beacons of light in the darkness. The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you but try and adapt, make some good things happen (within your 5km!)
For not only will you fill your world with hope, but you will also fill yourself with hope. What we all hope will endure after the pandemic is the deeper human engagement with the natural world so many of us experienced during the lockdown and close-knit communities.
The pandemic may have shut down much of the human-controlled part of the world, but, thankfully, nature hasn’t gotten the message. Birds still chirp, flowers burst into bloom and gentle breezes still sway the trees.
Here in Portumna, our lush and verdant forest has had a renaissance. Our lake so tranquil and vibrant every morning welcomes the locals seeking comfort and joy swimming early in the morning. The gifts of nature are endless. We used to dream about escaping our ordinary life, but life was never ordinary. We simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.
So take this opportunity to rediscover the extraordinary in your home town, support local and xplore local. I think Hippocrates said it best:
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity