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Agriculture Minister addresses Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

1 March, 2008

Michelle Gildernew is the MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone. She is opening the Rural Regeneration Section


A Chomrádaithe, ba mhaith liom labhairt ar na moltaí seo a leanas.


On taking up this ministerial post my mission was to support and sustain vibrant rural communities for this and for future generations and to deliver on our manifesto commitments as outlined in our policy paper 'Equality for Rural Communities'.


Since May of last year I feel we have made great strides on delivering on our commitments. We have brought three key policy areas to the six county department of Agriculture and Rural Development. These are an All Ireland approach to the entire spectrum of the Department, to make equality a watchword of everything the Department does and finally to begin building a new relationship with Europe that will begin delivering for farmers in the six counties that have been failed for so long by partition and Direct Rule.


An example of delivery on these policy areas has been the adoption of a Fortress Ireland approach to animal disease from abroad. In our approach to the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Britain, two Ulster women, Mary Coughlan and I, took swift and decisive action to protect Ireland north and south from this catastrophic disease.


And on Thursday I ordered a ban on the import of certain animals into the north in line with a similar ban in the south so that Ireland can do all it can to resist the march of Bluetongue disease across Europe and to give Irish farmers the best possible chance of maintaining their Bluetongue free status for as long as possible. Fortress Ireland has worked and Fortress Ireland will work.


Secondly, in the area of equality, in addition to Sinn Fein securing vital equality provisions in the Budget, Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy I have instituted an equality education programme for the senior civil servants within my Department and have introduced new equality screening templates to the department meaning that civil servants now have to screen all policy areas and spending for equality impacts.


Thirdly, through the EU Commission Taskforce established in June I have been developing new relationships with the Commissioners in Brussels which will assist me in undoing the Direct Rule legacy of the past and begin to deliver real results for our farmers and fishermen. Indeed in the coming weeks I have organised meetings with the Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel and the Fisheries Commissioner Borg to advance this initiative.


Delivering for our rural communities in this current global market will be challenging and demanding.


But we am determined to meet that challenge.


I intend to do all in my power to address the difficulties in the red meat sector as identified by the Red Meat Taskforce Report.


I intend to deliver for our rural communities through the effective delivery of the new £530 million Rural Development Programme and through the introduction of a Rural White Paper in the north.


I intend to deliver for our fishing industry by achieving the best possible deal in Europe and through the creative use of our £25 million European Fisheries Fund.


I intend to ensure our Review of the Less Favoured Area payments delivers a fair and equitable distribution of resources that targets those most in need of our help.


In short I intend to address the second-class treatment that our rural communities have received for decades and deliver equality and a sustainable and vibrant future for our rural and sea going industries.


Go raibh maith agaibh agus bain taitneamh as bhur gComhdháil.

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