Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon has hit out at the Government’s latest plan for rural Ireland, describing it as short-sighted and short on substance.

Deputy Scanlon commented, “This “action plan” is very disappointing, and is simply a rehash of previous announcements, programmes and employment forecasts.  There is very little in the plan that will see improvements to services, infrastructure and employment opportunities here in the North West and other rural areas.

“Fine Gael has shown little interest in rural Ireland over the past 5 years – implementing measures such as a Garda station closures, rural scheme cuts and threats to small schools.  The two-tier recovery is leaving parts of rural Ireland behind, particularly here in the North West, while concentrating all its efforts in the Greater Dublin region.  Now Fine Gael has woken up to the need for a strategic plan for rural areas, but unfortunately this latest document is nothing more than a rehash of previous announcements and proposals.

“This rural plan is the 4th such strategy in 3 years, but once again, it has no ring-fenced funding to deliver the targets set out.  €20m in annual funding has been confirmed for the next 3 years, but this money is coming from existing Departmental budgets – in other words, there is no new funding in this plan.  All the jobs and tourism targets have been previously published, and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme was already provided for in Budget 2017.

“What we need is a strategic plan that will ensure that life is breathed back into rural Ireland.   This involves concerted effort and investment.  This includes investment in infrastructure, particularly in broadband, as well as in transport to ensure better links between our towns and villages.  We also need to see a major push to increase IDA visits to the region so that job creation opportunities are maximised.

“This latest plan falls short on new initiatives and is simply a rehash of old ideas.  Reheating previous announcements does not constitute new policy commitments.  It’s time for the Government to get behind rural Ireland and come up with a real plan, with allocated funding, to properly rejuvenate rural areas”.