Hazzard Says Rural Development Proramme Is Vital For Rural Areas
SOUTH Down MLA Chris Hazzard (Sinn Féin) has said that it is absolutely vital that people understand that the DARD rural development programme is crucial for the sustainability and vitality of rural areas.
Speaking after a debate in the Assembly Mr. Hazzard said: “The rural development programme has a crucial role to play in building sustainable communities and allowing rural areas to access services that are needed to do that such as job creation, economic development and supporting farming families.
“The current rural development programme has created 382 jobs and is working with a budget of around £500 million, of which 80% goes back to farmers through the various schemes.
“Twenty per cent, which is £100 million, went to the broader aspects of rural development and schemes such as the MARA benefits uptake project, which has delivered £433,000 into the pockets of those in deprived rural areas, support for rural transport for isolated areas, the rural bore wells scheme and various other anti-poverty measures for rural areas including the promotion of sport grounds.”
Mr.Hazzard added: “I think that it is important to point out that the criticism of the funding of GAA projects is unwarranted. Anyone who comes from a rural area knows that. The GAA apart from the games, pastimes and recreational opportunities, provides a focal point for all aspects of life in local communities.
“If we look at some of the events that happens in local GAA clubs we see that, for example, clubs are used by local women’s group, for charity events, by local disability groups and for training and educational sessions.
“Many clubs cater for after-funeral dinners, birthday parties and have even been used for weddings, so we can see that many GAA clubs are in fact the hub of community life in rural areas.
“I am now calling on the Finance Minister to support the DARD Minister in ensuring that a recent court case will not impact upon future rural development schemes, by making up the shortfall that has now beset the budget due to the zero percent transfer.”