The Minister made the announcement during a trip to Fermanagh where she also visited the Clogher Valley Show and the farm of John Egerton near Roslea.
Minister O’Neill said: “I have today met with the Fermanagh Rural Community Network (FRCN) and heard directly from representatives of communities who have benefited from my Department’s Rural Community Development Support Programme which is funded through the Tackling Rural Poverty & Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme. I am pleased to announce that I have allocated £1.025million funding for Rural Support Networks for this financial year to continue to provide vital services to rural communities, such as those in Fermanagh.
“I am committed to ensuring that our rural communities continue to prosper and have access to basic services to make their lives better, the same basic services which are taken for granted in urban areas. My proposals for a Rural Proofing Bill have now been approved by the Executive, which will effectively compliment the massive opportunities which the new Rural Development Programme will create. The proposals will advance the cause of equitable treatment for rural dwellers by addressing their needs as an integral part of government policy.”
Earlier in the day, Nicholas Lowry, Chairman of Clogher Valley Agricultural Society accompanied Minister O’Neill on a tour of Clogher Valley Show, now in its 97th year. The Minister had the opportunity to visit a number of the trade stands and view some of the livestock judging. Minister O’Neill also sampled some of the quality local produce on display in the popular Food Hall, which is supported by the NI Regional Food Programme.
Commenting on the Show, Minister O’Neill said: “I was delighted to attend the Clogher Valley Show, where I had the opportunity to meet with exhibitors and visitors as I viewed trade stands and livestock competitions.
“It is encouraging to see the large number of visitors attending our local shows, with many thousands expected to visit the Clogher Valley Show today. Our shows provide the farming community and the agri-food industry as a whole, with an opportunity to showcase the wide variety of animals and quality, locally produced food, to both rural and urban dwellers.
“I commend the organisers of Clogher Valley Show in delivering such a high quality, educational and enjoyable event.”
Minister O’Neill rounded off the day with a visit to the farm of Mr John Egerton near Roslea. John is the current NI Beef Farmer of the Year and opened up his farm this year for the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend in June. The Minister was delighted to hear of his positive experiences in hosting the event, now in its 4th year. John also took Minister O’Neill on a tour of his farm where she was updated on his commitment to adopting new technologies and technical efficiencies to ensure maximum production of beef from grass.
Rural Community Development Support Service contracts have been awarded to: South Antrim Rural Network – Antrim & Newtownabbey District and Mid & East Antrim District; Rural Area Partnership in Derry Ltd – Derry & Strabane District; Fermanagh Rural Community Network – Fermanagh & Omagh District; TADA Rural Support Network – Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon District; North Antrim Community Network – Causeway Coast & Glens District; Cookstown & Western Shores Area Network – Mid Ulster District; and East Down Rural Community Network – Newry, Mourne & Down District and Lisburn & Castlereagh District.