Fianna Fáil Party Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Rural, Community, and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dara Calleary TD, has questioned Fine Gael’s commitment to rural Ireland as new FOI data shows funding schemes dedicated for rural Ireland will be integrated while other schemes will make “savings” from 2019.

Deputy Calleary commented, “I have obtained FOI data which concerns a pre-budget submission made by a senior official in the Department of Rural and Community Development to their counterpart in the Department of Public Expenditure.

“It reveals that the government’s flagship Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) will make “savings” in 2019. It is shocking that this is the attitude in the Department and confirms suspicions that the fund was setup not to fully pay out.

“The FOI also confirms that the Rural Department will be “integrating” both the Town & Village Renewal scheme (TVR) and the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme (ORIS) into the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) in 2020. In other words, these two independently run schemes will be subsumed into the RRDF.

“This is dreadful news for rural communities. The government must at once explain why these two schemes are being subsumed into the RRDF? What will the application process and budget be for interested parties? The Minister must clarify when he first became aware in 2019 that there would be “savings” in this much referenced government fund.

“As the flagship rural fund under the National Development Plan, it is extremely concerning that there will be savings.

“Rural Ireland, its unique ways of life and culture should be protected and fostered. However, this information confirms our worst fears that Fine Gael are overseeing the degradation of rural Ireland,” concluded Deputy Calleary.