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Gildernew sets out plans for Rural White Paper and Rural Champion

1 May, 2008


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has outlined her plans to develop a Rural White Paper and to define the roles of Rural Champion.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Rural Community Network, Minister Gildernew said:

"Since I came into office almost a year ago I have been reminded, on a daily basis, of the challenges facing those who live and work in our rural areas. Perhaps the biggest challenge that we all face is in determining what we can do to address equality issues and improve the quality of life for rural dwellers. That is why I have placed equality and good relations considerations at the heart of the new Rural Development Programme, and at the heart of everything my Department does."

Referring to last week's decision, by the Executive, to agree to the development of a Rural White Paper, the Minister explained:

"This sends a strong signal to those living and working in our countryside, that we recognise their valuable contribution to our society and economy and are committed to developing a joined up policy framework that will benefit rural areas. A Rural White Paper will capture a vision for the future sustainability of these areas and encourage common understanding of their value as an asset to the region."

The Minster also made reference to her proposals to define the role of 'rural champion' and enhancing the rural proofing process. She said:

"It will take time to develop a Rural White Paper and that is why I'm pleased that the Executive has also given agreement to development of the Rural Champion concept. This could include creating a collective approach to championing rural issues inside and outside government.

"It will involve us looking at how we advocate and advise on rural issues, how we embed rural issues in the policy making process across Government, how we listen better to the needs of rural communities and initiate actions to help address them."

The Minister concluded by saying:

"The next step is to further develop these initial principles and ideas and present proposals to both the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and the wide range of rural interests. It is important that I have their input and commitment 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." ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. The Rural Community Network event was held in Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island on 1 May and was called Peace, Land and Bread. More details are available at: http://www.ruralcommunitynetwork.org/events.htm
  2. The proposals for Rural White Paper, Rural champion and enhancing rural proofing were agreed at the Executive meeting on 24 April 2008
  3. The Programme for Government contains PSA 17: Rural Infrastructure Objective 2 - Adopt the role of Rural Champion. This objective has two actions, namely;
    • Define the role of Rural Champion and enhance the Rural Proofing process by end 2008.
    • Develop proposals for a Rural White Paper by end 2008.
  4. Defining the role of rural champion is a key element of DARD's Rural Strategy 2007-2013. DARD's Strategic Plan 2006-2011 also commits the Department to champion rural issues and enhance the rural proofing process
  5. 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.

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