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Gildernew Announces Rural Network

Friday, 26 September 2008

Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has announced the establishment of a Rural Network for the North of Ireland to assist in the delivery of the NI Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) 2007-2013.

The NIRDP is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The contract has been awarded to the Rural Development Council (RDC), who will manage the Network on behalf of the Agri Rural Forum, a consortium of key stakeholders in the rural development sector.

The minister said: “I am delighted to announce this new dedicated rural network which will provide a range of services and support for those involved in the delivery of the NI Rural Development Programme. The Network will be able to draw on the experience of all of the members of the Agri Rural Forum and ensure there is an exchange of expertise between everyone involved in the NIRDP.”

The Rural Network will help to identify and share good practice, lessons learned and experience gained in delivery of rural development programmes. It will also provide training for those delivering the NIRDP and will work with Local Action Groups to promote and assist the development of co-operation projects.

The minister continued: “The NI Rural Development Programme provides opportunities to build a more sustainable rural economy and improve the quality of local life. The Rural Network for the North will play an important role by providing newly established delivery bodies with the necessary training to enable them to get up and running quickly and start providing support to those in need.”

Martin McDonald, Chief Executive RDC, stated: “We welcome the establishment of the new Rural Network for Northern Ireland. Rural stakeholders have come together under the Agri Rural Forum to ensure there is real integration of activity and benefit for all who live and work in rural areas. RDC will provide training, networking, sharing of best practice and the identification of partnership opportunities for delivery bodies across all three Axis of the new Rural Development Programme. This is a unique opportunity to work with other UK regions, colleagues in Republic of Ireland and the wider European Union for the benefit of farm families and the wider rural community.

“RDC will be agreeing a work programme for its activities in the first instance and it is our desire to meet as soon as possible with the seven new Councils Clusters and social partners who are at the forefront in the delivery of the new Programme.”

The Agri Rural Forum is a consortium of key stakeholders in the rural development sector including the Ulster Farmers' Union, Rural Development Council, Rural Community Network, Northern Ireland Leader Network and Northern Ireland Environmental Link.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the European Commission in July 2007. The programme is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and is worth £540m.

2. The programme comprises fourteen measures which support:

  • Improving the competitiveness of he agriculture and forestry sectors;
  • Improving the environment and the countryside; and
  • Improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification if the rural economy.

3. Further details of the programme can be found at

4. The Rural Network for Northern Ireland is being set up as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme and is one of four regional rural networks to be established in the UK. Rural Networks will also be established in Scotland, England and Wales to assist in the implementation of those regions’ rural development programmes.

5. The Rural Development Council tendered for this contract as a member of the Agri Rural Forum consortium. The Agri-Rural Forum was established in 2000 to increase mutual understanding between the different interests on agri-rural issues arising from the 2000-2006 EU Structural Funds programmes. The individual organisations involved in this work have continued this association through to the 2007-2013 funding period.

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