Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív TD has described Fine Gael’s latest PR gimmick, Standing Up for Rural Ireland as “deceitful and a complete fabrication”.  The social media campaign launched ahead of the General Election is nothing more than a blatant attempt to win votes and is based entirely in fiction. Fine Gael’s four year record in government has been one of decimating rural Ireland’s existence, through drastic cuts to services and supports.

Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Rural Ireland’s very existence is being undermined by this government. Upon taking office in 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny abolished the Ministry of Rural Development – a senior cabinet position which had been created by a previous Fianna Fáil led Government.

“Under Fine Gael, LEADER companies, which bring much needed investment into rural communities, have been dismantled and stripped of their local autonomy. Funding for the programme has been cut by over 40% to €250 million in contrast to the last programme when Fianna Fáil secured €427 million in LEADER funds.  Even when the Government attempted to feign an interest in rural Ireland through the commissioning of the CEDRA report, its lack of commitment has been more than evident through its failures to implement the recommendations contained in it.  A paltry €1 million has been allocated for CEDRA projects this year.

“In its campaign video, Fine Gael claims that economic growth is evenly spread throughout Ireland. This is a gross falsehood. Evidence clearly points to a two tier recovery with job creation heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. 94% of all jobs created in 2014 and 50% of all IDA jobs were in the capital and commuter belt area. In April, Minister Noonan’s Department of Finance acknowledged that economic recovery in Ireland had been unevenly spread across the country.

“In 2011, the Fine Gael led government pledged to deliver fibre broadband to 90% of homes and businesses by 2015 in its Programme for Government. This is yet another promise which has been completely broken. Over 750,000 households and businesses (32% out of total Irish premises) will now have to wait up until 2021 to receive moderate speed broadband – 6 years over the promised deadline.

“Fine Gael’s lasting record in government has resulted in state services being abolished and downgraded. The CLÁR Programme, which provided vital supports to rural infrastructural projects, and which Fianna Fáil dedicated €20 million annually to when in office, has been scrapped.

“Rural communities are living in fear following the closure of 139 Garda Stations, while many other stations are rarely or never open to the public.  The Rural Social Scheme and Farm Assist Scheme have also been decimated, both of which were set up by the previous Fianna Fáil led Government.  Local small schools have also been subjected to targeted attacks, with dramatic increases in the pupil-teacher ratio.

“Fine Gael investment in its online campaign cannot detract from its four year crusade to dismantle rural Ireland.  People in rural communities the length and breadth of this country are experiencing the effects of this Government’s regressive policies on a daily basis.  They will exercise their verdict on Fine Gael’s falsehoods perpetrated during their time in office on polling day. The evidence is clear. Fine Gael’s lasting legacy is one of neglect and disdain for rural Ireland and no amount of spin can change that fact”.