Fianna Fáil Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has called on the Taoiseach to follow through on his promise to “get rural Ireland working” by reinstating a Minister for Rural Affairs.
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony commented: “At a Government Press Conference held on January 14th, the Taoiseach stated that he wanted to get “rural Ireland working”. In order to secure this ambition I believe there has to be one Minister and one Department responsible for rural affairs, as was the case up to 2011.
“There are a number of Ministers and various Departments bringing in policies that have consequences for and affect the people and communities in rural Ireland. These policies need to be ‘rural proofed’ by one Minister. Rural proofing would require policy makers to ensure that the needs and interests of rural people, communities and businesses are properly considered in the development of policies and programmes. Rural proofing would help achieve good economic, environmental and social solutions that would contribute to growth in rural areas.
“At the moment you have one Department encouraging people to live at home as long as possible, another Department increasing the qualifying age for the Home Improvements Grant from 60 to 66 and another Minister reducing the telephone rent allowance in Budget 13 and then abolishing it in Budget 2014, thus in essence making it more expensive to have a personal alarm.
“The Departments of Health, Finance, Transport, Justice and Education implement policies that have direct and often devastating effects on people in rural Ireland with no umbrella Minister to rural proof these policies.
“The proposed reshuffle later in the year gives An Taoiseach the ideal opportunity to reinstate a Minister for Rural Affairs,” Cllr Murphy O’Mahony concluded.