The Finance, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Infrastructure Ministers have agreed to take forward a recovery plan for the Mournes following the recent serious fire.
Speaking after they attended a round-table meeting in Newcastle on Monday with a range of key stakeholders, Ministers Murphy, Poots and Mallon said they would continue to work together to restore and enhance the resilience of the area after the fire caused significant damage.
In the short-term, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is considering the funding required for immediate remedial work following the fire. The Department of Finance will then lead on an action plan for the Mournes over the long term. This plan will be finalised in the autumn.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who chaired the meeting, said: “I called the meeting after visiting the Mournes and seeing at first-hand the devastating impact caused by the fire. I am determined that we do all we can, not just to aid recovery in the short-term, but also to develop this area of outstanding natural beauty into the future.”
Minister Murphy added: “My colleague Minister Poots is ensuring that the immediate funding needs, relevant to his Department, of those affected are met while I will work with local groups to develop a long-term plan for this much-loved area.”
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots said: “Wildfires are a threat to people, property, wildlife and the countryside and efforts to fight them are a drain on the public purse. That is why I have established a Strategic Wildfires Group and will be establishing a Wildfire Stakeholders Forum to focus and align efforts to enable us to be best placed to face the wildfire challenges that lie ahead. Working in partnership is essential as was evidenced at the recent Mourne fire. The provision of vehicles and staff by my Department in support of such wildfire incidents is a great example of this.
“The Mourne Mountains are a treasure for all of our citizens and visitors. I fully support the long term sustainable management of the Mournes and my Department have for many years provided grant funding to organisations, such as Mourne Heritage Trust, to ensure the wonderful nature, landscapes and recreational opportunities it provides can be enjoyed and explored for generations to come and to help support local rural communities and economy.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon added: “I very much welcome this meeting and the collaborative approach being taken across government and with key stakeholders to ensure the protection of the Mournes, a unique area which offers so many leisure, tourism, environmental and economic benefits.
“NI Water owns a significant amount of land in the Mournes including important water catchments and is keen to assist in the development of restoration and recovery plans. These will build on the existing work it is doing with some key stakeholders in the area to help preserve water resources and enhance water quality whilst protecting the environment.”
Ballyvea Football Club to Kick-off New Season with £360K Community Hub
Ballyvea Football Club in Kilkeel, Co.Down will be kicking off the new football season with a state of the art modern community hub following a grant of £270,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Rural Development Programme (RDP).
The official opening of the new community hub took place on Friday 23 July 2021, with Minister Poots visiting this week to see the facility and all it has to offer the local community. The hub will allow for the delivery of social and economic development activities aimed at addressing underachievement and social isolation, and marginalisation amongst young people and the elderly.
Welcoming the funding award and completion of the new building, Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots said: “I am delighted that Ballyvea Football Club were awarded £270,000 under the current Rural Development Programme to build a facility that will provide services and activities for the local rural community in Kilkeel.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers connected to the club, and all members of the Local Action Group, for the time they have given up to make great projects like this come alive, and I wish Ballyvea every success both on and off the field.”
Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said: “As Chair of the Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership, I am delighted to see the completion of this impressive facility which has availed of Rural Development funding, provided by DAERA and the European Union. The volunteers involved in the Local Action Group continue to work tirelessly to ensure local decisions made by local representatives, bring high quality projects such as this to fruition.”
Trevor McConnell, Chairman of Ballyvea FC commented: “The financial support provided by DAERA, the European Union and the local council through the assistance of the Local Action Group has been instrumental in providing a high quality community hub that will provide a range of services to the local community. We are delighted to have worked closely with Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership to develop the project to provide such a vital facility for all rural dwellers and extend our gratitude to all they have done to assist us through the process.”
Councillor Cathy Mason, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council reflected on the project stating: “This is a fantastic example of how working in partnership can deliver a facility which is a real asset for the local area and will continue to be for many years to come. I would like to commend the Local Action Group and wish Ballyvea FC all the very best in their future endeavours.”
Training Opportunities for Rural Residents
Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA, today delivered an economic boost for rural residents in the Newry, Mourne & Down and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Council areas when he launched the £65,000 Prosper + Project.
The Project, which has been developed in conjunction with the Southern Regional College (SRC), operates on the basis on two Strands. Strand one offers mentoring support and Strand two provides accredited training for economically inactive and low paid workers living within rural areas. DAERA has provided funding of £65,000 for the project, from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme, while SRC meets the administration costs.
Minister Poots said: “Training opportunities are particularly hard to find in rural areas and the problem has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. To this end Prosper is a big success story, delivering mentoring opportunities for 100 young people from rural post primary schools in Banbridge, Crossmaglen, Newtownhamilton and Tandragee areas engaged in the SRC Schools’ Partnership Programme and accredited training for a further 70 unemployed and low paid workers across the region.
“This project is an excellent example of DAERA working with other public sector bodies to deliver benefits for rural communities.”
Economy Minister Paul Frew added his support for the initiative. He said: “My Department is currently undertaking a consultation on a new Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland, ‘Skills for a 10x Economy’. One of the Strategy’s key objectives is to help those furthest from the workplace to re-engage with the labour market and so I very much welcome DAERA’s Prospect + Project, which provides opportunities to help people improve their skills and increase their employability.”