MEP Maria Walsh welcomes the Our Rural Future plan announced by Minister for Rural Development Heather Humphreys today, but says that the focus must be on digitalisation.
Walsh, MEP for Midlands North-West who sits on the Employment & Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, says the plan which outlines a blueprint for the development of rural Ireland over the next five years needs digital support to work:
“This new Plan provides us with a new, more strategic approach, but in order for it to be successful, we need to ensure that at the end of its implementation, digital education is a significant part of education policy. It requires clear, consistent and positive results in terms of access and quality across Ireland and Europe.”
According to Walsh, more people than ever before want to live in rural Ireland – in our towns, villages and on the islands:
“The outbreak of Covid-19 has highlighted the need to overcome the digital divide between rural and urban areas and to develop the potential offered by connectivity and digitalisation in rural areas. Now is the time to provide opportunities to retain all those teleworkers that moved home or to try a new way of life in rural Ireland.
In parallel to Ireland’s National Development Plan, the EU is shaping digital and green policies to support rural Ireland. If we can retain young people in the west of Ireland by giving them every possible opportunity to develop their full potential, it is the start to building communities together for development and investment in their area.”
With two of the hardest groups hit by the Covid pandemic being young workers and those in rural Ireland, this ambitious plan is the start of rural Ireland taking every possible opportunity to turn this pandemic into opportunities for its future.
This new plan goes hand in hand with policies being developed at European level, including the announcement last week of the new research and investment programme, Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe will be the biggest programme ever undertaken in Europe. The new multidisciplinary programme will run until 2027 and will be backed by a budget of over €95 billion.
Maria Walsh is committed to supporting these vital initiatives in the European Parliament in her new role as member of the European Parliament’s Cultural & Education Committee. Walsh is the only Irish MEP to be a member of this committee.