The first in a series of national events to highlight the funding supports available to rural communities was hosted in Thomastown, last Friday.
Four government ministers were joined by groups who have benefited from funding to talk about their projects and the supports they had availed of, as well as those interested in accessing funding.
Clontubrid National School was one of the stars of the show, with principal Pat Robinson outlining how his school has benefited hugely by developing sporting facilities for the pupils, thanks to CLAR funding.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, was joined by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan.
Minister Ring told the gathering that as Minister for Rural and Community Development he had witnessed the vision and commitment in communities that can get things done, they just need the right opportunities.
The Thomastown event was billed as a ‘Rural Opportunity Roadshow’ to highlight those opportunities, the minister said, and also to hear from people who made their visions a reality.
“There are no limits to what people in rural communities can achieve if they work together,” Minister Ring said, and that deserved an appropriate response from government.
Supports are available for enterprise and job creation, tourism, culture, community and the Irish language.
Representatives of four projects spoke to an audience from across the south east about the service and grants they availed of and offered their advice - Irial Mac Murchú from Nemeton TV, based in the Waterford Gaeltacht in Ring; Agnes Aylward from the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Garden in Tramore; Vinny Mernin of the Villierstown Education and Culture Project; and Pat Robinson, Clontubrid NS.
Clontubrid NS has an average of 60 pupils. Mr Robinson said the school only had a small yard and wanted to expand its outdoor facilities. Talking to local councillors they realised the school qualified for CLAR funding. In 2017 they availed of this to install an all-weather pitch. In 2018 they again applied for funding and developed a multi use games area, a total of €60,000 investment.
“CLAR has just transformed our school,” Mr Robinson said. His advice to rural groups is to talk to your local councillors who can advise what grants are available.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Eamon Aylward, said the number of ministers attending the event reflected the importance of rural development. It was great to hear from people who were making their projects work, he said.
Cllr Aylward highlighted the venue, Thomastown Concert Hall, which has been recently renovated, and the town which has also benefitted greatly from rural development funding. He lead a round of applause for Seamus Quigley and his local committee for the project.
Other Kilkenny projects funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2018 include: €337,553 for Woodstock Estate and Gardens under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme; €146,198 for Thomastown under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, and €100,000 for a parking and playground area in Coon under the same scheme; €50,000 CLAR funding for Muckalee; and €40,500 CLAR funding for Lisdowney GAA and Scoil Bhríde Lisdowney.