A major rural development initiative has been announced in Mountbellew by Galway Rural Development (GRD).
‘Smart Villages’ aims to enhance cooperation, new alliances and funding for rural areas across the county.
A capacity crowd attended Mountbellew Pastoral Centre last month to discuss the potential for the town as a ‘Smart Village’ destination, with Mountbellew District Development Association and Galway Telework leading the way.
GRD has now confirmed Mountbellew as its pilot location in County Galway with MEP Maria Walsh visiting the town in recent days to acknowledge the news.
The national Smart Villages plan is a collaboration between three local development companies; Galway Rural Development, Kilkenny Leader Partnership, and IRD Duhallow, and will be rolled-out this winter across the country.
Sixteen regions in the country and twelve local development companies will be involved in the programme.
CEO of Galway Rural Development, Steve Dolan described it as “a game-changer for rural areas, in-keeping with the aims of Our Rural Future, and offering a proven record of success across the European Union in terms of cultural and economic growth and regeneration.”
“Smart Villages are communities in rural areas using innovative solutions to improve their resilience for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
“Across the EU, ‘Smart Villages’ have implemented improvements to the lives of millions of rural dwellers in terms of their economic, social, environmental, and cultural lives – including through mobilising digital technologies and the potential in Mountbellew is self-evident.”
Senior Manager of GRD’s LEADER team Conor Carty added that the Smart Villages concept brings a ‘fresh approach’ and opens up new opportunities to improve the sustainability of rural areas.
“It aims to deliver on the promise of ‘a better life in rural areas’ and it reflects the principles and methods associated with ‘smart and competitive’ rural areas,” he said.
“As a start, Smart Village training has been developed to address the needs of rural communities and businesses in towns like Mountbellew.
“This training will help up-skill rural communities under a number of strategic themes in the areas of food, nature, towns, and transport.
“We will be out and about on the ground this winter and the guidance given will enable rural communities to get ready for future investment.”
MEP Maria Walsh and Senator Aisling Dolan were keen to acknowledge the potential for such an initiative in Mountbellew and praised the ambition.
Maria Walsh said: “Given my own background in community work, I am intimately familiar with LEADER and I am also well aware of the success of ‘Smart Villages’ across the EU so I’m delighted to see it embraced in Ireland – specifically here in East Galway.”
Senator Dolan said she looked forward to seeing the fruits of the work in East Galway over the coming months.
“Sharing ideas, sharing experience, and building intercommunity relationships are core concepts of Smart Villages,” she said.
“If we are to build a rural future for all of our citizens’ then proven initiatives like this will be key to our endeavours. I’m overjoyed to see this being led out of Mountbellew for the region.”