Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional Development, Rural Affairs and the Gaeltacht Éamon Ó Cuív TD has cast serious doubt over the plan unveiled by Fine Gael to revitalise rural Ireland. Deputy Ó Cuív says the Government needs to bring forward a tangible plan with ring-fenced funding.

Deputy Ó Cuív said, “There is little substance in the document unveiled by the Government. There is no outline as to how it will bring about the immediate improvement in services and infrastructure that is necessary to create employment opportunities in rural parishes.

“The Government has tried to pull the wool over the eyes of people living in rural Ireland by rehashing existing schemes and programmes which were previously announced. This has been a characteristic of Fine Gael in Government – they’re more interested in spin rather than actually delivering for communities in rural Ireland.

“This is the 4th ‘rural plan’ launched by Fine Gael while in Government. The CEDRA Report, the Rural Charter and commitments in the Programme for Government have all failed to deliver for rural communities. This clearly reveals a systemic rural policy failure by the Government. Fine Gael has no long term vision for rural communities and they have failed to bring forward tangible proposals to halt the depopulation of rural parishes.

“I am appalled that this latest plan only targets rural and regional towns specifically. People living in small villages and in the countryside have effectively been told that they have to fend for themselves. This is appalling considering over 1.7m people live in aggregated rural areas as classified by the CSO.

“Moves to introduce possible rates alleviation schemes to support rural development is long overdue. However, the commitment to provide investment of up to €50m for job creation across the regions rehashes what was announced in the Programme for Government last year. People in rural parishes will not be fooled by this stroke.

“Shockingly, 900,000 rural households and businesses will still have to wait up until 2023 for state intervention to receive moderate speed broadband – 6 years over the promised deadline. I am also disappointed that there is no specific allocation for the Local Improvement Road Scheme.

“The ultimate litmus test will be what additional new funding will be ring-fenced for this plan. I am calling on Minister Humphreys to immediately update the Dáil on this matter. The Minister needs to introduce a supplementary estimate for 2017 in this regard.”