Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew

21 February, 2009


This Ard Fheis welcomes progress by Sinn Féin Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew in assisting farmers and rural communities by:

• Adopting a "Fortress Ireland" policy approach to animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth and Bluetongue.

• Advancing the All-Ireland Animal Health Strategy, moving towards the free movement of animals on the island of Ireland.

• Developing a Rural White Paper.

• Investing 10 million to tackle rural poverty through fuel support, rural transport and rural childcare initiatives.

• Mainstreaming equality within the Department's delivery and screening mechanisms.

• Pursuing a new relationship with the EU Commission, unshackling Six County agriculture from representation in Europe by the British.

• Initiating the process of decentralisation of civil service jobs by committing her Department headquarters to move out of Belfast.

Ard Chomhairle

Michelle speech -- Ag section (500 words max) 428 words (suggested Irish in italics)

Agriculture, Fishing, Rural living are essential components of Irish life.

Yet across Ireland our rural communities are suffering. Jobs losses particularly in the construction sector have hit our rural communities hard. Incomes are falling.

But we cannot just stand back and let that happen.

Sinn Féin will not let that happen.

Rural interests are not being advanced by Dublin or London.

There must be a future for Rural Ireland.

We are facing many economic challenges -- and the rural economy is a key part of the wider Irish economy. Its future and all our futures are bound together. Without vibrant rural communities Ireland will suffer.

At the heart of our rural communities are rural families, small farm families and local indigenous small businesses.

We need to harness them and particularly to ensure that needs of the small farmer or small business are not swallowed up by the demands of the big farmer.

At the heart of the Sinn Fein approach has been the further advancing of the all Ireland agenda.

Systematically putting in place new policy built upon the all-Ireland infrastructure of the Good Friday Agreement and pushing out beyond that.

We have shown farmers in the North the benefit of the all Ireland approach in adopting the "Fortress Ireland" policy in relation to animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth and Bluetongue.

We are now advancing the All-Ireland Animal Health Strategy, and moving towards the free movement of animals on the island of Ireland.

We are developing a new relationship with Europe and the EU Commission, unshackling agriculture in the Six County from representation in Europe by the British government and British farming policy.

We are putting rural regeneration at the heart of our programme of work; regeneration built on getting money into rural communities; empowering people in rural communities and tackling inequality and disadvantage.

We are investing 10 million to tackle rural poverty through fuel support, rural transport and rural childcare initiatives

I am pumping £530 million into rural areas of the north over the next five years to tackle these issues and will work with the Department in the south join up our rural development programmes to the benefit of rural communities in border region.

We have also prioritised funding that will support the construction industry and local manufacturers and engineers.

We face many challenges in the time ahead but I am confident that together we can ensure a bright future for Rural Ireland; that we can work towards a new horizon and build towards a deeper understanding of the value and necessity of Irish Unity.

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