The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL DEERING

IRE­LAND 2040 was launched to great fan­fare in Sligo last Fe­bru­ary when the cabi­net came to town and on his re­turn visit to the cap­i­tal of the North West last Fri­day, An Taoiseach Leo Varad­kak said he was now back­ing up the com­mit­ments with money.

He re­vealed de­tails of a Ru­ral Re­gen­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fund which is be­ing un­der­pinned by one bil­lion euro, a frac­tion of which was an­nounced on Fri­day at The Model. More than 290 projects had ap­plied for fund­ing un­der the scheme and the first 18 suc­cess­ful ones to be sup­ported in 2019 to the tune of €55 mil­lion were re­vealed in­clud­ing two for Sligo, a Yeats Trail (€500,000) and the Surf­ing Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence in Strand­hill (€615,752).

Sligo County Coun­cil will be al­lo­cated the €500,000 to con­struct the Yeats Trail along 15 lo­ca­tions as­so­ci­ated with the No­bel Prize win­ning poet. This will in­clude 90 new signs, a ded­i­cated web­site and an an App.

The fund­ing for the surf cen­tre is in ad­di­tion to the €1 mil­lion which was al­lo­cated to this project by Failte Ire­land ear­lier this year.

“I know peo­ple hear­ing politi­cians talk­ing about 10 year plans and 2040 can be scep­ti­cal. It sounds like the “long fin­ger” talk­ing. But that’s not the case. Project Ire­land 2040 is al­ready be­ing im­ple­mented. Next year alone there will be a 25% in­crease in in­fras­truc­ture spend­ing and you can al­ready see the re­sults all over the coun­try,

“Over the next twenty years, the pop­u­la­tion of Ire­land is ex­pected to grow by one mil­lion peo­ple. We want to en­sure that this growth is bal­anced, that all parts of the coun­try share in the na­tion’s pros­per­ity, and that we do it in a sus­tain­able and cli­mate friendly way. Project Ire­land 2040 is our way to achieve that. It is a plan like no other. Be­cause it rep­re­sents a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ap­proach to plan­ning for our fu­ture.

“Project Ire­land 2040 con­sists of a na­tional spa­tial plan that is backed up with real money. The money fol­lows the plan,” he added. “Imag­ine the fu­ture for Sligo and for this part of the coun­try. Project Ire­land 2040 recog­nises the sig­nif­i­cant role Sligo plays as a re­gional growth cen­tre and it will help it de­velop fur­ther. It means that by 2030 all re­gions and ur­ban cen­tres, par­tic­u­larly the North West, will be linked to Dublin by a high quality road net­work. And all parts of Ire­land will be linked to each other in­clud­ing Sligo, Galway, Limerick/Shan­non and Cork along the At­lantic Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor.

“To achieve this, we are in­vest­ing in roads in­fras­truc­ture in­clud­ing the Sligo Western Dis­trib­u­tor Road, and other ma­jor projects such as the N4 Colooney to Castle­bald­win. We are in­vest­ing in health­care in­fras­truc­ture. Projects like the re­de­vel­op­ment of Sligo Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal, the di­a­betic cen­tre and in­ter­ven­tional ra­di­ol­ogy depart­ment will all help to im­prove the quality of hos­pi­tal ser­vice for pa­tients in the North West for years to come.

“And the €1 bil­lion Ru­ral Re­gen­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fund - the rea­son we are here to­day - will en­able towns, vil­lages and out­ly­ing ru­ral ar­eas to grow sus­tain­ably. It’s all about mak­ing Ru­ral Ire­land a more at­trac­tive place to stay, move into or run a busi­ness. One of the more revo­lu­tion­ary as­pects of these Funds is that they are com­pet­i­tive and open to a wide va­ri­ety of part­ners.

“If you have an idea to im­prove your area, de­velop new tech­nolo­gies, en­cour­age cli­mate ac­tion, you have the op­por­tu­nity to make a real dif­fer­ence. To­day we are an­nounc­ing the first round of fund­ing un­der the Ru­ral Fund with more an­nounce­ments to come. I have been struck by the dy­namism of the ideas that were sub­mit­ted. Projects in­volv­ing her­itage, re­gen­er­a­tion and the pub­lic realm, green­ways, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, tourism, en­vi­ron­ment, en­ter­prise, and pub­lic trans­port.

Pics: Donal Hack­ett

An Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar ad­dress­ing the gath­er­ing in The Model last Fri­day.

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