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Executive supports proposal for Rural White paper

24 April, 2008


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA's proposal for the development of the north's first Rural White Paper has been approved today by the Executive.

The proposal, made by the Minister at today's Executive meeting offers a package of proposals to address both the needs and opportunities of rural communities, and also includes development of the Rural Champion concept and reinvigoration of the current rural proofing process.

Minister Gildernew, speaking after the Executive meeting said:

"These proposals are included in the recently published Programme for Government. To become reality they required full support from my Executive colleagues and I am very encouraged that we have all agreed today on the importance of our rural areas and are willing to work together to develop a Rural White Paper.

"This will send a strong signal to those living and working in our countryside, that the local Executive recognises the valuable contribution that they make to our society and economy and is committed to developing a joined up rural policy framework that will be beneficial to them. It is also another positive example of the difference devolution is making to ordinary people's lives."

The Minister explained that she would be providing more detail on these proposals in the coming week, saying:

"The Executive decision today has kick-started this process and there is no time to waste in turning this agreement into actions that benefit rural areas. In the next week I will set out my proposals in more detail so we can move these important issues forward."

The Minister concluded: "It is important that I have input and commitment from all stakeholders to the development of these proposals and I want to work closely with all interests to ensure that we have an agreed approach to achieving a sustainable future for rural communities."

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The proposals were presented to the fortnightly meeting of the Executive.

2. The Programme for Government contains PSA 17: Rural Infrastructure Objective 2 - Adopt the role of Rural Champion. This objective has two actions, namely;


A. Define the role of Rural Champion and enhance the Rural Proofing process by end 2008.
B. Develop proposals for a Rural White Paper by end 2008.

3. The process of rural proofing was developed to consider the impact of government policy on rural areas. The process was a Programme for Government commitment in 2002, designed to ensure that the rural dimension was routinely considered as part of the making and implementation of policy. Responsibility for ensuring that the rural proofing initiative is effectively developed and that Departments have adequate guidance for rural proofing lies with DARD. However each Department must apply the process of rural proofing to its own policies.

4. The Minister intends to provide more detailed thinking on these proposals at an event in the coming week.

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