Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has expressed his extreme disappointment at the closure of the CLÁR programme.
The CLÁR Programme, which was founded by Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív in 2002, was aimed at ensuring that scattered isolated rural communities were given basic infrastructure and all areas of the country had necessary infrastructure.
Deputy Ó Cuív said the programme provided massive support for rural communities and in many instances levelled the playing field in terms of access to funding and services.
“The present Minister for the Environment and Local Government, informed me in the Dáil recently that the CLÁR Scheme has been wound down,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
“This is a retrograde step and shows the lack of priority being given by the present Government to rural Ireland. It follows hard on the heels of the announcement of the change in the pupil/teacher ratio in small schools, the closure of Garda Barracks and Courthouses, detrimental changes to the Farm Assist Scheme and many other steps that this Government has taken against rural Ireland. It is clear that rural Ireland does not matter to this Government.
“The CLÁR Programme assisted with the provision of phase 3 electricity to small businesses in rural areas, the provision of village enhancement for small villages, the provision of water services to communities, the provision of sewage in small villages, enhanced broadband and the upgrade of minor roads.
“The money that was allocated for CLÁR was taken out of the existing budget available for infrastructure and, therefore, did not make any saving for the exchequer. Its main role was to ensure a fair distribution of money for infrastructure right around the country and moreover to ensure that depopulated areas were not further depopulated because of lack of infrastructure.”
Deputy Ó Cuív has called on rural organisations, nationally and locally, to make a stand to defend rural Ireland.
“The infrastructure that has been built up over many, many years needs to be protected and secured; our rural organisations need to make a stand. Communities that have survived through the generations are now under huge threat. As a person who came to work in rural Ireland I fully appreciate the need for services and infrastructure to maintain vibrant communities and I will continue to work as Spokesperson on Agriculture to achieve this end.”