Northern Ireland’s first Rural Parliament has been officially launched by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Attending the inaugural meeting in Moneymore, the Minister welcomed the establishment of the new group which aims to give greater advocacy for rural communities.
Minister O’Neill said: “I’m delighted to officially launch the north’s first Rural Parliament and to support its work to strengthen the voice of rural people. It is vital their interests are reflected in government policies, at every level. So for that reason my department funded three members of the Parliament to join delegates from 40 countries at the European Rural Parliament in Austria earlier this month.
“This gives them both the opportunity to learn from other countries across Europe but to also have their voice heard at a European level. I am hopeful that they will continue to act as advocates for rural communities for key issues affecting them and ensure their needs and interests are reflected in government policies and the delivery of services.
“Just this week I introduced the Second Stage of the Rural Needs Bill to the Assembly which will safeguard the needs of rural communities through statute. It clearly demonstrates government’s commitment to helping all citizens enjoy equitable treatment, regardless of where they live,” Minister O’Neill concluded.
The Rural Parliament is also supported by the Rural Community Network (RCN) which is a voluntary organisation established by community groups from rural areas to articulate the voice of rural communities on issues relating to poverty, disadvantage and equality.