This is the full text of the speech on defending rural Ireland, delivered by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, to the Ard Fheis in Wexford
A chomrádaithe, cur oraibh bhur gcuid buataisí, gabh amach sna pobail tuaithe agus tarraing aníos iad ón bpuiteach ina bhfuil siad de bharr faillí, easpa tacaíochta agus polasaithe frith tuaithe an rialtas seo.
Comrades, last year in Castlebar, Sinn Féin launched our plans to revitalise rural Ireland. This year we must go one step further to protect and develop what is one of our greatest assets. Because this government’s policies are having a devastating effect on our rural communities.
Do you think Joan Burton doesn’t realise that when you slash social welfare for younger people that the brightest and most capable aren’t going to take their skills and talents to countries where they can best utilise them and make a decent living for themselves?
Do you think that Ruairi Quinn isn’t aware that when you cut the ptr for rural schools that the resulting loss of teachers and school closures won’t strike a death blow to rural communities?
Does Alan Kelly not recognise that when you decrease, instead of increase spending on rural transport that you are going to leave old and young alike feeling more isolated, more vulnerable and more neglected?
When will Jimmy Deenihan realise that no matter how hard he tries to take the man from the bog, he will never take the bog from the man?
And Minister Coveney, it’s time to scrap your plans, based on flawed science, to build an inappropriate, ill-conceived, mega fishfarm in Galway bay. The community doesn’t want it. It is an ecological nightmare and it won’t deliver on your Harvest 2020 commitments in a sustainable manner.
You would have thought that having a Taoiseach and Tánaiste from a rural background in the West of Ireland would have served rural communities better, but the reality is that this is probably the most anti-rural government this country has ever seen.
But the ground work had been done for them…
For example, Eamon Ó Cuív, lined up the community and voluntary sector ducks for dismantling with his so called ‘cohesion’ process. Big Phil Hogan’s ‘Putting People First’ plans for local government include an ‘alignment’ process which ironically puts the voice of rural communities last in the development of their areas and hands more power to unelected officials in local authorities.
Sinn Féin’s policies will ensure that our rural republic puts an end to the cronyism, cartelism and elitism that Fianna Fáil have always fostered in our farming and fishing industries, which is being reinforced by the present administration.
Sinn Féin in government will have a fundamentally different approach to rural issues. Why should you believe me? Because Michelle O’Neill and our team in the North have delivered just that. We need strong voices in Europe to lobby for all our citizens in rural Ireland. Which is why we must elect Matt Carthy, Liadh Ní Riada - and our Dub with culchie connections, Lynn Boylan - to give Martina Anderson the backup she needs.
In our vision for rural Ireland Sinn Féin want equality of access to services, the exploitation of our natural resources for the benefit of all citizens. Vibrant and active coastal communities. Greater investment in infrastructure and facilities outside of urban centres. Balanced economic development supported by enhanced transport, housing and amenities. A co-operative approach to development where rural communities decide for themselves what gets prioritised in their areas.
So comrades, let’s get rural Ireland rocking again. Get your wellies on, get down and dirty to help drag rural communities out of the mire that this government has them swamped in. We must be the most relevant party for rural communities across this island. Cuirimís tuath na hÉireann chun tosaigh!