A West Clare pub will be selected to participate in a  national pilot programme to encourage rural publicans to diversify their facilities for community use as cinemas, digital hubs, book clubs, arts and crafts workshops or meeting spaces.

The ‘Pubs as Community Hubs’ initiative is to be rolled out in Cavan, West Donegal, West Cork, East Kerry and West Clare over the coming weeks.

According to Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey, the scheme will be expanded to other parts of the country if the pilot is a success.

“Funding of €50,000 has been provided to the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), which will select the pubs that will be utilised as community activity spaces during quiet trading times,” he explained.

The VFI will refine proposals with local community groups in the five locations before submitting funding proposals to the Department of Rural and Community Development for consideration.

“Family-run pubs have serviced local communities for generations. Falling demand coupled with the strains of dealing with Covid-19 have really challenged these businesses. This policy has the potential to convert underused spaces for the benefit of local communities,” Deputy Carey stated.

“Often people in rural areas might have to travel many miles to access certain services. In other instances, there may not be a suitable meeting place for local groups to come together for activities.

“The possibilities are endless, but the goal is simple – supporting our rural pubs so that they can continue to be a focal point in our rural communities where friends and neighbours can gather for a range of services and activities into the future.

“Experiences of a similar initiative in the UK have seen the development of community meeting spaces and similar facilities. These spaces have, in turn, been used to accommodate training programmes and other activities some of which address issues associated with social disadvantage and marginalisation”.