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 and the hardest, according to Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Niall Collins TD.
Deputy Collins commented, “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 across County Limerick will be hit hard by these changes which will have the effect of damaging the agricultural industry on a whole.
“Today rural families also learned that they are to pay a higher price in terms of losing their local garda services. Rural garda station closures are concentrated in rural areas with 31 stations closing across the country, 2 in Limerick being Shanagolden and Doon, despite the fact that it costs a mere €2,000 each to keep these stations open. Rural communities 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?
“School buses are a crucial part of the infrastructure of rural Ireland and connect families to educational facilities. The government will double the school transport charge from €50 to €100 and double the primary maximum family payment to €220. 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.
“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.
“Increases in VAT of 2% will also impact rural people more as they have to incur increased costs in travelling to work, add to this the complete insult by FG/Labour in imposing a charge on rural dwellers in the form of a Septic Tank charge and a penal inspection regime giving inspectors unlimited powers to enter people’s property. In the area of health, the government is closing down our community and district hospital services which provide an invaluable service to rural communities. Rural post offices continue to be closed by this government despite a commitment to the contrary.
“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.”