THE decline of rural Ireland has been, and is, a long, slow and draining process.
The falling-away sometimes seems particularly apparent in many of the towns and villages struggling to sustain the vibrancy needed to support a viable community.
Though much of this change is rooted in automation, especially in farming, the loss of post offices, schools or the consolidation of schools, industry, banks or Garda stations are all well-recognised steps along the road to ghost-town status.
Encroaching forestry and wind farms too close to homes, and the pylon systems needed to support interconnectors, all add to the momentum depopulating rural Ireland.
It is, therefore, very easy to welcome a scheme that might, in however small way, help rural and not so rural communities sustain or rejuvenate themselves.
Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys has announced a scheme that will support young families or first-time buyers if they decide to buy and renovate properties in areas fighting for survival.
A total of €12m has been set aside for the Town and Village Regeneration Scheme for the coming year.
Already €6m has been allocated to the Repair and Leasing Scheme for 2017 to return vacant houses back to use as homes for families on local authority waiting lists.
Neither scheme will change the world but each will add to progress needed to resolve our housing crisis — and maybe the decline of rural Ireland.
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