Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht & Island Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív has described the new Department of Rural & Community Development as the “Cinderella Department” in terms of budget and functions.
The Department, which was established earlier this year, is by far the smallest Government department with a limited remit and a budget of around €16m.
Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Despite the fanfare surrounding the announcement of the new department in July and the appointment of Michael Ring as Minister, the only functions transferred over to it are the responsibility for charities legislation, which has no line budget, and the regional and rural affairs functions of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, and the community functions of the Department of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment. The combined budget for these functions is €160m – compared to a budget of over €400m for the Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs under the last Fianna Fáil Government.
“Despite the miniscule funding allocation being transferred to the new Department, it now also looks unlikely that the Minister will be able to spend the funding this year – which could result in the Department carrying money into next year, or handing it back to the Exchequer at the end of the year. This new Department will pay the price for the other Departments’ failure to manage their budgets directly, and communities in rural Ireland will be at a disadvantage as a result.
“I find it questionable that two Ministers have been given responsibility for this Department – given the light workload involved. I am calling on the Taoiseach to establish a more substantial Department and transfer responsibility for a range of additional schemes including the Rural Social Scheme, the Farm Assist Scheme and the Tús and CE schemes. Responsibility for rural transport and rural spatial planning should also come under its remit.
“If this Government is serious about rural issues, it must hand over power to the Minister for Rural and Community Development for general rural functions. The current situation is completely unacceptable and is nothing more than a token gesture from this urban focused Government”.