Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced £80 million funding from the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) to tackle rural poverty and isolation in border communiteies.
The Newry Armagh Assembly Member Megan Fearon said: “The investment of £80 million is great news for deprived rural communities and I am particularly delighted that rural communities in border areas will be encouraged to work together on joint projects.
“Partition has had a hugely negative impact on border dwellers. It has led to reduced incomes through increased bureaucracy, lack of investment, poorly developed tourism and a lack of communications infrastructure. In addition it cut entire communities in half and pitted border towns against each other.
“Any measure to counteract this is most welcome and I commend Michelle O’Neill for supporting cross border rural development.”
Ms Fearon went on to describe the types of projects which may seek support once the new fund open in April 2015,
“It is my understanding this RDP will include the creation and development of small businesses, the renewal of rural villages and improvements in social infrastructure.
“As someone who comes from a rural community I know how the RDP benefits local areas. I am determined to ensure that this investment is targeted at those who are most in need and I will work with any group who wishes to access this funding.”
The draft RDP will be presented to the EU commission in October with the full programme anticipated to open in April 2015.
“In the meantime,” Ms Fearon said, “I strongly advise rural stakeholders to take this time to refine and develop their ideas ahead of the call for applications next year. There will be stiff competition for this funding, so rural groups and individuals should be getting ready now.”
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