Fianna Fáil TD for Longford – Westmeath Robert Troy has said Mullingar has been left behind following the latest jobs initiative launched by the Government.

Deputy Troy commented, “It is clear that the Government is now scrambling to put in place a jobs plan for the Midlands after realising that it has abandoned the region over the last four years. While I welcome the spirit of today’s initiative I am nonetheless deeply concerned given the fact that Mullingar seems to have been left out of the initiative.

“Questions need to be answered by the Government as to why it took four years for this initiative to materialize. I am also concerned about the lack of focus on Mullingar in the plan. It would seem that the Government is intent on abandoning Mullingar, which begs the question as to how you can have a regional jobs initiative when one of the principle towns in the Midlands is excluded.

“Mullingar has been hit hard under this Government. One of its first acts in power was to order the closing down of Columb Barracks, a move which had a major negative impact on the local economy. The Government also scrapped the plan to decentralise parts of the Department of Education to Mullingar, a move which has further starved the town of economic activity.

“After four years of implementing damaging cutbacks across the Midlands the Government is finally recognising that a coherent and long term jobs strategy is needed to encourage growth in the region. This is something that Fianna Fáil has been calling to be put in place for years. It is clear that the fast approaching General Election is finally forcing the Government to acknowledge the basic needs of communities in Longford and Westmeath.

“The legacy of this Government will be the onset of a two tier recovery and the decline of towns and villages in the Midlands region. The national unemployment rate in Ireland currently stands at 9.9% while the Midlands rate stands at 12.4%, the second highest regional unemployment rate in the country. The IDA park in Mullingar is currently predominantly lying empty. This shows the Government has not been serious with its efforts to promote economic growth in the Midlands region, and that the General Election is the real motivating factor behind this latest announcement.

“Little has been done to encourage the retention of services in communities, and the Government has overseen the closure of rural Garda stations, Post Offices alongside the withdrawal of vital public transport routes. These closures have seriously damaged the fabric of communities across the Midlands and will make economic recovery more difficult to achieve.

“The Government has been strong on promises but weak on delivery. This latest jobs initiative is a move forward, but the exclusion of Mullingar needs to be urgently rectified. The Government now needs to follow up on this latest announcement with some concrete action, unlike past announcements and initiatives” said Deputy Troy.