Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Éamon Ó Cuív has said he is very disappointed the commitment to increase the number of participants on the Rural Social Scheme by 500 has been missed.

“As part of Budget 2017, the Government committed to increasing the number of participants by 500. According to parliamentary replies that I have received, not one extra participant is currently enrolled on the scheme.

“The last Budget announcement took place over nine months ago, and it is really unacceptable that there has been no increase in the Scheme’s numbers.

“One would have expected that we would be well on the way to reaching the 3200 target as set out in last October.

“We are now in a position where discussions and negotiations surrounding Budget 2018 will soon start.

“Is it now a case that Budget 2018 will just be a rehash of the Budget 2017 commitment rather than a commitment to an extra 500 places on this scheme?

“All too often, this Government excels at making announcements, yet fails spectacularly at delivery.

“The new Minister, Regina Doherty must commit to making these placements available as soon as possible. Any further delays will have a negative impact on rural Ireland.

“Rural Social Schemes deliver important services such as village enhancement, maintenance of community facilities such as football pitches, community halls and green spaces; and the development of walkways, as well as providing much needed employment in urban and rural areas.

“It’s time that Fine Gael in government starts to deliver on its promises. Further delays will only exacerbate the decline of rural Ireland,” concluded Ó Cuív.