Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has criticised the Minister for the Environment for his lack of interest and commitment to the potential of rural recreation in Ireland.

In reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Ó Cuív this week, Minister Hogan clearly demonstrated a total disinterest in the potential of this sector.

Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “It is my belief from my time as Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that it would be possible to create up to 6,000 sustainable jobs, spread throughout the country, by the proper and comprehensive development of rural and marine recreation. 

“Considerable work had been done during my period in that Department to get agreement between farmers and recreational users through Comhairle na Tuaithe, which seeks to develop a countryside recreation strategy. This work was very successful and a large number of projects were completed over the last number of years due to the work of the Department at that time.

“I realised that we were only scratching at the surface in relation to the potential for rural and marine recreation in the State and I had developed plans for a comprehensive approach in this regard. 

“Unfortunately, the attitude and approach of this Minister is totally different. The very small staff in the Department allocated to Rural Recreation has decreased during his tenure of office by 17%. 

“In a reply to another question I tabled, the Minister also stated that no new walks have been developed under the existing Walk Scheme since September 2010. In the time of the previous Government 40 new trails were developed under the, ‘New Walks Scheme’, which ensured high quality, well maintained walks for rural recreation users at an annual cost of less than €2 million, covering 1,805 landowners.

“A new mountain access project with a pilot scheme for two locations, Mount Gable in Connemara and Carrantuohill in Co. Kerry was also being developed during my time in the Department. It would appear that in the last year and a half that Minister Hogan has made no significant progress in relation to the development of a comprehensive national mountain access scheme. Even the two pilot schemes are not functional and it shows a total lack of interest by the Minister.

“It is also significant that the Minister has not attended any meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe since he became Minister. Despite the fact that Comhairle na Tuaithe has met on four occasions since he came into office. Without active Ministerial involvement and participation, it is clear that the development of the full potential of rural recreation will not make the progress it could from both an economic and social point of view.”