29/04/2002

Trimble launches Lisburn rural development strategy

"Northern Ireland’s rural communities are an essential part of our way of life and must be encouraged and assisted," according to the First Minister, David Trimble.

The First Minister was speaking at the recent launch of Laganside Rural Development, which has been established to prepare and implement a rural development strategy for the rural wards of Lisburn Borough.

He said: "The rural community in Northern Ireland is the backbone of our society. In Lisburn, it represents around one third of the population of the Borough and provides vital employment, mainly through the agriculture industry.

"In recent years agriculture has suffered greatly as a result of circumstances outside its control, but the emergence of Laganside Rural Development is a clear sign that the rural community is prepared to help itself. We have had BSE and we have had Foot and Mouth and still the farming community is prepared to take on new challenges.

Mr Trimble said elected representatives had a responsibility to support rural communities and, through the Programme for Government, the Northern Ireland Executive was committed to working together to regenerate the rural community.

He pledged to develop an action plan for the strategic development of the agri-food industry over the next decade.

"Our Vision Exercise is aimed at providing a strategic framework within which government and industry can work together in partnership towards achieving a common set of development objectives for the agri-food sector," he said. "For the wider rural community, we will examine how public services can fairly be provided in these areas to improve social conditions.

"When we were faced with the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease the Executive acted decisively and effectively as soon as the disease was confirmed. Undoubtedly, the restrictions introduced caused inconvenience, but their very nature enabled us to recover from FMD much faster than other UK regions".

The First Minister said that Laganside Rural Development Ltd was an exciting initiative which could act as a model for many other parts of Northern Ireland.

(SP)

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