Rural Ireland has been singled out by the Labour Party and Fine Gael for cutbacks across a number of areas, hitting those parts of the country that are already suffering most, according to Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Agriculture.
The Donegal Senator said: “Means testing and income criteria changes to the Farm Assist scheme will hit farmers struggling to make a living. This is further exacerbated by their decision to slash the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and cut REPS. The most vulnerable farmers living in the least profitable land will be hit hard by these changes which will have the effect of damaging the agricultural industry on a whole.
“The Government has also announced plans to double the school transport charge from €50 to €100 and double the primary family payment to €220 These measures will have a major impact on families across Co Donegal. School buses are a crucial part of the infrastructure of rural Ireland. The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has obviously forgotten what he said last year that “A new line has been crossed for the first time by charging families to send primary students to school”. It is another example of hollow rhetoric from the Labour Party, especially in the context of rural concerns.
“Phased staffing cuts in small schools with under five teachers will also have a direct impact on these rural areas. These small schools also run the risk of declining standards due to a higher teacher pupil ratio. Children in rural areas will be disproportionately affected by these cuts for no reason other than being born in the countryside.
“On top of this, the Government is introducing major cuts to local garda services. Rural garda station closures are concentrated in rural areas with 31 stations closing across the country, 16 in Connacht/Ulster alone. This includes Dunkineely Garda Station in Donegal. The communities directly affected will be left more vulnerable to crime as the State fails to fulfil the most basic obligation to protect its citizens. These stations were kept open when the State had a significantly smaller force than it does now, so why is the Government choosing to close them, encouraging a further sense of worry among our most remote and vulnerable communities?
“The abolition of the Local Improvements Scheme for rural roads will further hit isolated communities and households in rural Ireland by depriving them of investment in the roadways.
“Looking at the decisions made over the last few months it is clear that the Fine Gael / Labour Government is a Dublin-focussed Government. I am calling on those rural Ministers within the Cabinet to work harder to make the voices of their communities heard at the Cabinet table,” said Senator Ó Domhnaill.