Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Agriculture & Food Éamon Ó Cuív is calling on the Government to publish a clear policy for economic development in rural Ireland.  Deputy Ó Cuív is welcoming the recommendation by the Commission for the Economic Development for Rural Areas (CEDRA) that the Government should  reinvigorate its support for rural Ireland by coming up with a clear strategy as well as re-establishing a Ministerial function for the co-ordination of rural economic development.

“This Government has done nothing but attack rural communities since it came into power over three years ago.  When he took office, Taoiseach Enda Kenny decided to abolish the Ministry of Rural Development, a Cabinet position which had been created by a previous Fianna Fáil led Government in 2002.  This Minister had a seat at the Cabinet table and was able to ensure that rural communities were seen as equals, and not second class citizens, as seems to be the case in this administration”, commented Deputy Ó Cuív.

“The Fine Gael-Labour coalition has an abysmal record when it comes to investment in rural Ireland, choosing instead to target and cut resources to smaller communities.  Since it was formed, the Government has

 – set about dismantling LEADER companies, which brings much needed investment into rural towns and communities

 – made significant negative changes to the Farm Assist Scheme and the Rural Social Scheme, both of which were set up by the previous Government

 – increasing class sizes significantly in small rural national schools

 – closed rural Garda Stations and taken rural Gardaí from local communities

 – reduced funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta and abolished democratic elections to the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta.

 – abolished the CLÁR programme that brought so much vital infrastructure to dispersed rural communities

“While I welcome the CEDRA report, I don’t believe it goes far enough.  It lacks specific targets and undervalues the economic and job creation potential that exists in rural Ireland.  It needs to demand more from the Government in relation to broadband, roads, water and other vital infrastructure.

“I’m calling on the Government to publish an action plan for rural Ireland before the end of the summer, which will include the reversal of all of the cutbacks that have been imposed on rural services and infrastructure, as well as outlining how it is proposed to address the challenges faced by rural towns and villages. 

“If this plan fails to deliver, it can be seen as further evidence that this Government has no real interest in addressing the issues facing rural Ireland.  This Government has less than two years left in office, and to date its record in rural Ireland is poor.  Ministers should remember that at the end of their term in office, they’ll be judged not by the number of reports they have produced, but on the actual affect their policies had on rural areas”.