Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers says the Government must prove its commitment to Mayo by including towns like Castlebar and Claremorris in its pilot plan to revitalise rural Ireland. The scheme, which is being rolled out by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, is due to begin a pilot project later this year.
“Fine Gael has completely neglected rural Ireland over the past six years, concentrating all its efforts on the capital and the Greater Dublin area. The bulk of investment projects were geared towards large urban areas, to the detriment of rural regions, particularly areas west of the Shannon. This policy has resulted in the erosion of community life in many towns and villages across Mayo. The IDA also needs to step up its efforts to attract jobs to rural areas. Places like Achill and Belmullet have been left behind as the Government focused on large towns and cities.
“The plan being proposed by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is long overdue. Fianna Fáil has been arguing for more investment in rural Ireland for years, and it was a key priority for us during the negotiations to facilitate a minority Government. In fact, the Confidence and Supply Arrangement contains a clear commitment to develop new Community Development Schemes for rural areas – and we want to see these rolled out as a matter of urgency.
“While I welcome this pilot scheme, we need to see a real investment by Government into rural areas. This means improving services like broadband, housing, roads, schools and GP care in towns and villages in Mayo. If the Government is serious about rural regeneration, towns like Castlebar and Claremorris will need a massive investment injection and I am calling on Minister Humphreys to ensure that these towns are included in the pilot project.
“People need to be encouraged to live in rural areas; otherwise these towns and villages will fall into disrepair and will eventually be lost. At the same time, pressure is mounting on larger towns and cities, and these are already suffering from housing shortages and in turn, exorbitant rents. This cycle needs to be reversed.
“Now that Fine Gael has finally woken up to the fact that there is a country beyond the commuter belt it must ensure that this plan is fully rolled out”.