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Sinn Féin launches major initiative on Rural Regeneration

26 September, 2007

Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew and Martin Ferris TD today launched a major initiative around 'Equality for Rural Ireland' at this years Ploughing Championship event in Tullamore and called for a new deal for rural Ireland. They were joined by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, MEP Bairbre de Brún and local Councillors Brian Stanley and Paul Hogan.
Speaking from Tullamore Ms Gildernew said:
"The needs of rural communities throughout the island are an absolute priority for Sinn Féin. This is why we picked agriculture as one of our ministries in the Northern Executive and within the Dáil Martin Ferris and Pearse Doherty in the Seanad will be prioritising the needs of rural communities. Today we will be meeting with farming organisations to listen to their concerns and to set out our plans for agriculture and rural regeneration.
"As farmers gather from across Ireland at the Ploughing Championships the issue of Foot and Mouth disease is undoubtedly a big concern. And it highlighted the immediate need for all-Ireland co-operation to protect the agriculture industry right across the island. But this type of co-operation needs to go much further.

"We need a new deal for rural Ireland. People who work in agriculture and live in rural areas have a right to be treated equally. Infrastructure, services and information need to be made as accessible in rural areas as they are in urban areas.
"Sinn Féin strongly believe that with planning, innovation, investment and other support rural economies, rural industries, rural businesses and rural communities can have a sustainable or even an enviable future. Moreover, we are convinced that future viability - particularly of Irish farming, fishing and new rural industries - rests on their development within an all-Ireland context.
"We need to develop new sectors of the rural economy that can play a key role in supporting the national economy as a whole, to the benefit of all, such as domestic renewable energy production. We need to ensure that people can live and work and count on a decent quality of life in rural communities. This requires an holistic approach in which many different policy areas have a part to play. This means we need to develop an integrated and coherent rural regeneration strategy on a cross-departmental and all-Ireland basis. It means protecting and developing essential services in rural communities eg schools, hospitals
"In this document we are setting out our proposals for a vast range of issues affecting rural Ireland. "The task facing us now is to listen, strategise, cooperate and harness the necessary political will to empower rural communities to achieve their maximum potential." CRíOCH
Martin Ferris sets out key priorities for revitalising agriculture
Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris speaking at the launch set out some of the party's specific priorities and said:
Agriculture remains an important part of rural life and a key economic factor even for those not directly employed on farms. Sinn Féin is committed to ensure that family farming is protected from further erosion. Moreover, we are committed to achieve the revitalisation of Irish agriculture into the future.
Sinn Féin will act as strong advocates for Irish farmers and proactively plan to ensure a viable and sustainable future for Irish agriculture. We have demonstrated the depth of our commitment by selecting the Agriculture Ministry in the northern Assembly over other competing priorities. Our priorities into the future include:
Main priorities for rural development
• Make rural regeneration and balanced regional development a priority.
• Immediately commission an All-Ireland Rural White Paper.
• Actively promote and support entrepreneurship within rural communities, especially co-operative and other 'social economy' ventures.
• Provide greater access to start-up incentives for rural businesses.
• Reform the planning laws to support the right of rural dwellers to build on their own land or to purchase and build locally.
• Enhance investment in rural public transport, and ensure planned delivery of an all-Ireland road and rail network, with a focus on accelerated development in the western and border regions.
Main priorities for agriculture
Revitalising Irish Agriculture
• Ensure that the maximum number of people continue farming, while stemming the shift towards large scale factory style farming.
• Oppose importation of cheap meat that fails to meet the strict food safety regulations imposed here.
• Work to amend the Single Farm Payment regulations to raise the lower income limit and impose a higher income limit, in order to redirect EU funds and ensure a decent livelihood for smaller farmers.
• Assist farm diversification into new areas eg organic farming and renewable energy.
• Keep Ireland as a whole GM crop-free
• Facilitate the conversion of the Carlow and Mallow sugar plants to biofuel production.
• Give farmers adequate notice prior to farm inspections.

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