Four rural communities each won £1,000 in the Housing Executive’s Rural Community Awards competition 2014.

Launched at the Balmoral Show in May, the awards scheme aimed to reward rural communities working to better their areas. The winners were:

Cleaner and Greener Rural Community Award

Small Village - Loughmacrory Community Development Association

Large Village - Cloughmills Community Action Team

Rural Community Spirit Award

Small Village - Loughgiel Community Association

Large Village - Portaferry Community Collective

Presenting the winners with their cheques, Mervyn Storey, Minister for Social Development said:

“It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to present these Rural Community Awards. With my background, I am fully aware of the invaluable work carried out by local people in rural communities to make them better places to live and raise a family.

"My Department provides important support to individuals, families, households, and communities in rural areas in a number of ways and I am committed to ensuring that rural communities get their equitable share. A vibrant, living countryside where people want to live is one issue I want to see further developed."

“I would like to congratulate not just the winners but everyone in the rural community for the fantastic work they do. There may be four awards for the overall winners but the work carried out by local community associations throughout Northern Ireland ensure that our rural communities are all winners.”

Siobhan McCauley, Housing Executive Director of Regional Services, commented:

“We are delighted to present these rural communities with their prizes. While we have presented four communities here today, the competition entries have highlighted the tremendous work being carried on in rural communities across Northern Ireland. Each and every entry was highly commendable and I would like to pay tribute to all those who are actively engaged in their communities, making their contribution to improving not just the environment but also the community spirit within their rural neighbourhood."

“We know the importance of rural areas as places to live and work and we have been working to help build strong vibrant communities. Our Rural Awards competition was introduced following feedback from young people highlighting their concerns that not enough was being done to protect and enhance their villages. Through the awards we want to support and reward rural communities who work together to improve their neighbourhoods."

Orla McCann, of Supporting Communities NI who was involved in the assessment of the applications commented:

"It was a pleasure to be involved in the Rural Community Awards and have the opportunity to see the really valuable work being carried out by Community Associations in rural areas throughout Northern Ireland. I would like to congratulate not only the four winners, but all who took the time and trouble to submit an application to showcase their areas. "

"The standard was set at an extremely high level indeed and was reflected in the variety of projects being carried out as well as their impact on the ground. It is a testimony to all those involved in working to improve their own areas and communities, they are an inspiration to us all!”