Fianna Fáil will today (Tuesday, 13 December) call on the Government to abandon a series of covert cuts in Budget 2012 that unfairly target rural communities. Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Michael Moynihan will tonight put forward a Dáil motion condemning the anti-rural bias in the Budget and calling on Fine Gael and Labour Deputies to reject policies that discriminate against small communities in rural Ireland and the most vulnerable groups in society.
Deputy Moynihan commented, “There are serious inequalities in this Budget that cannot go unchallenged. The Government has identified a series of cuts to services in smaller communities, including shutting down small rural schools, closing garda stations and small courthouses, increasing the cost of school transport and cutting payments to small farmers.
“Phased staffing cuts in small schools with under five teachers will result in many communities losing their local schools. At best, class sizes will increase in many small schools, while many others will be shut down and amalgamated with schools in neighbouring communities. On top of this, the Government is doubling the school transport charge from €50 to €100 and the primary maximum family payment to €220. The increase in school bus costs will be felt most by hard pressed families along country roads for whom the basic right of attending school will bring with it greater costs.
“Garda station closures are concentrated in smaller, disadvantaged communities with 31 stations closing across the country. Rural communities will be left more isolated and more vulnerable to crime as a result. These stations were kept open when the State had a significantly smaller force than it does now, so why is the Government choosing to close them now? It makes absolutely no sense, financially or socially.
“Means testing and income criteria changes to the Farm Assist Scheme will hit farmers struggling to make a living, along with the Government’s decision to slash the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and cut REPS. The most vulnerable farmers living in the least profitable land will be hit hard by these changes.
“On top of all of this, the Government has slashed the budget for Community Employment schemes that provide vital services in rural areas and provide an opportunity for people to up-skill and re-enter the workforce. This will reduce work opportunities for those worst affected by the recession and directly impact upon critical services such as Crèches and local community groups projects.
“Fianna Fáil accepts that tough measures were necessary in this budget, but the Government had choices about how to achieve the necessary savings. Unfortunately, they chose to discriminate against more vulnerable groups while the better off are well protected. Fianna Fáil warned what was coming down the tracks for rural communities at the hands of a Fine Gael / Labour Party government, but were flatly contradicted by local Fine Gael and Labour candidates.
“Our Dáil motion will give Government Deputies, particularly those representing rural areas, the opportunity to stick to their word, address the gross inequalities in their Budget and reverse these deeply unfair decisions.”