Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan MLA has said that the impending court case against the Department of Agriculture is not only an attempt to breach Ministerial independence but also is an abandonment of rural dwellers.
Mr. McMullan stated,
“The decision by the DUP to challenge the Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill’s decision to balance the needs of our farming sector with the needs of the environment as well as rural people in general flies in the face of the fact rural people need services and Government resources to improve the quality of their lives.
“The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has, as the title suggests, a responsibility to the entire rural community – farmers and the non farming rural dweller alike.
“That remit is not alone decided by DARD but also by the European Union which includes measures such as the Rural Development Programme in order to address poverty and quality of life issues affecting everyone in rural areas.
“The Minister has proven that she is determined to tackle inequalities for all those who live in a rural setting and should have the independence to do so. Transferring monies between the different Pillars will allow for the regeneration of many rural areas and assisting smaller communities to provide much needed services.
“There is no doubt that the farming sector needs to be supported and the minister has demonstrated her commitment through the development of the ‘Growing for Growth’ strategy and the fact that the vast bulk of current and future Rural Development funding will go directly to farmers. However the needs of wider rural issues also need addressed such broadband, community facilities and tackling poverty.”
“Not only is this court case a waste of money but it is putting out a message that these wider rural issues should not be addressed.”