Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has said that rural communities have been hit particularly hard by a series of cuts in Budget 2012. Deputy Calleary has expressed particular concern about cuts to the Disadvantages Areas Scheme and REPS, the closure of rural garda stations and rural schools and the hike in the school transport charge.
Deputy Calleary 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 Mayo. 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 the fact that they were 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. A total of 31 stations are being shut down, with 16 to close in Connacht/Ulster alone. Of these, 4 are in Co Mayo. 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 there are real fears about this Government’s anti-rural agenda. I am calling on the Fine Gael Deputies in Co Mayo to make their voices heard as important policy decisions are made that affect their communities,” said Deputy Calleary.