Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed a commitment from Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill that £80 million from the Rural Development programme will be used to tackle rural poverty and isolation.
The West Tyrone MLA said;
"This is great news for deprived rural communities.
"The £80 million will be targeted specifically at tackling poverty and promoting social inclusion and economic development in rural areas.
"It is my understanding this will include the creation and development of small businesses, the renewal of rural villages and improvements in social infrastructure.
"Rural communities in border areas will also be encouraged to work together on joint projects.
"As someone who is heavily involved in rural community development 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.
"I am delighted the Minister has reiterated her support for a ‘bottom-up’ approach and the intention is to have new Local Action Groups established by the end of this year.
"The draft programme will be presented to the EU commission in October with the full programme anticipated to open in April 2015.
"In the meantime, 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."