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Our Rural Future: Rural Development Policy 2021 – 2025

April 12, 2021

On the 29 of March, the Government published Our Rural Future, a national policy that provides a framework to achieve the long-term social and economic development of rural Ireland over the next five years. The over-arching vision of the policy is of a thriving rural Ireland that can create quality jobs in vibrant, lived-in rural places that are integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.

The delivery of this vision is supported by 152 policy measures under 9 thematic areas. The Government recognises that one size does not fit all and seeks to take an integrated, place-based approach in order to meet the needs of individuals, families, communities and businesses in each diverse locality.

9 Thematic Areas


  1. Optimising the opportunities for rural communities from high-speed broadband.
  2. Supporting improved quality employment and career opportunities in rural areas.
  3. Assisting the regeneration, repopulation and development of rural towns and villages.
  4. Enhancing the participation, leadership and resilience of rural communities.
  5. Enhancing public services in rural areas.
  6. Supporting a Just Transition to a climate neutral economy.
  7. Supporting the sustainability of Agriculture, the Marine and Forestry.
  8. Supporting the sustainability of our island and coastal communities.
  9. Nurturing our culture and heritage.


A major focus of the rural development policy is attracting remote workers to rural communities, capitalising on the wave of unprecedented changes in working patterns brought about by COVID-19 and drawing more people to live and work in rural Ireland. There are specific measures outlined to attract and support such an influx including the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, a country wide network of over 400 remote working facilities and as part of Budget 2022, the scoping of new financial supports to increase residential occupancy in rural towns.

However, there are longstanding challenges faced by rural communities such as access to public services and transport, the highest rates of “at risk of poverty” and the lack of adequate community facilities for all age groups that will impede the ambition of vibrant, sustainable and growing rural communities.

This is acknowledged and addressed in the thematic area of Enhancing Public Services in Rural Areas.

‘To ensure that people living in rural areas have access to good quality public services that enable them to continue to live sustainably in rural communities and help them to maintain a good quality of life. We will achieve this by investing in improvements in public transport services, health care within communities, housing provision, early learning and childcare facilities, and community safety.’

Early Childhood Ireland welcomes the Government recognition in this policy that early learning and childcare facilities are essential public services necessary to maintain a good quality of life in communities. It is a positive first step to see a strategic action taken from First 5, the national early years strategy and their Families, relating to childcare and rurality, reflected in the Our Rural Future.

‘Undertake research on early learning and care and school-age childcare needs of parents who work atypical hours or live in rural communities and develop recommendations for future action.’


We welcome this research as a foundation of evidence to begin a local, place-based approach to Early Learning and Care provision that reflects the needs and preferences of parents and families and best serves the developmental needs of babies and young children. However, we feel there are further opportunities for babies and young children have access to safe, high-quality, developmentally appropriate, integrated Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare in rural communities that have not been included in this new strategy. These include transitions to primary education and childminding. It is vital that supported transitions to primary schooling are integrated into Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare provisions for children and their families in rural communities. Given the imminent publication of the Childminding Action Plan, it is very disappointing to see no reference to this vital area in the new rural strategy.


Early Childhood Ireland will be responding to the strategy as part of our policy and advocacy work and we will keep members up to date about any developments.  If you would like to share your views about the new strategy, please email us.  

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