Lisburn Councillor Robbie Butler has challenged the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister “to ensure there is sufficient cash set aside by the Executive to combat the growing problems of social isolation and poverty in rural regions of Lagan Valley”.
Councillor Butler, who was recently selected by the Ulster Unionist Party to contest the Stormont Assembly election in May for the Lagan Valley area, challenged Minister MIchelle O’Neill “to clearly show the festive spirit by guaranteeing initiatives aimed at helping to tackle poverty and social isolation within rural communities”.
Mr Butler continued: “Three years ago, the minister unveiled the much-needed Rural Challenge Programme 2012 worth £700,000 and this was identified as a key strand under DARD’s Tackling Rural Poverty.
“The best festive present which the minister and her department can give the hard-pressed rural communities in Lagan Valley is for her to unveil a similar Rural Challenge Programme for 2016 with guaranteed funding for those rural communities in the constituency.”
Mr Butler expressed concern that there was real and pressing need in the Lagan Valley constituency that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to address the growing issue of poverty in the community,
“There are urgent poverty and social isolation issues that need addressed in rural areas of Lagan Valley,” continued Mr Butler.
“These issues can be targeted through an innovative new Programme for 2016 which will be all about getting to the core of poverty and social isolation issues at a very local level.
“Many community and voluntary groups, I believe, are best placed to know and understand their local issues could strongly avail of any funding provided through a Rural Challenge Programme 2016.”