Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has visited Rathlin where he cut the sod on a new housing scheme, met members of the community and viewed the puffins and other species at the Seabird Centre.
Minister O’Dowd began the day by cutting the sod on a new social housing scheme being built by the Rural Housing Association. This £2M social housing scheme has been supported with Housing Association Grant funding of c£1.3M from the Department for Communities. The innovative scheme will supply 10 new modern, energy efficient homes in the Church Bay area of the island which will meet the needs of the existing community and provide an opportunity for new people to relocate to the island.
Minister also had the opportunity to speak with members of the Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA) and hear of their ambitious plans to make Rathlin carbon neutral by 2030 and to chat with islanders including pupils from St Mary’s Primary School.
Minister then travelled to the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre where he was treated to views of puffins, guillemots, razorbills and many other species in their natural environment.
Minister O’Dowd said: “Since taking up my role in the Department I have been clear I want to get out from behind my desk and meet the people who are making a difference in their local communities. Rathlin is a fine example of how community groups can bring about change and it was fascinating to hear of the initiatives by RDCA as they aim to make the island carbon neutral by 2030. Climate change is real and we must all take action now so it was pleasing to hear how that message is having an impact on the local children here today and to learn of the projects they are undertaking at school and at home, which will not just benefit their island but also the planet.
“One of my highlights today was the visit to the Seabird Centre. Seeing the puffins and many other species thrive in this unique landscape was truly an experience to remember. This environment must be protected and cherished.
“Through my Department’s Rathlin Island Policy I will continue to work in partnership with Ministerial colleagues, RDCA and other stakeholders to bring about further improvements, such as this housing scheme getting underway today, to help create a vibrant and healthy community which will improve conditions for everyone on the island while also protecting its natural environment and the species which live on it.”