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Ard Fheis 2004 - McHugh - Irish government failing rural communities

28 February, 2004


Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture and rural regeneration Councillor Gerry McHugh supporting motions 108 & 109 'Securing a future for farming and Rural communities' said "The Irish government has failed to bring out to rural communities the EU policy decision makers so that our communities can engage with them. This can be seen by the failure to make the Irish presidency of the EU accessible and in no way, do the Irish people feel any ownership of the presidency." Cllr McHugh said:

The agriculture industry and rural life in Ireland have been damaged by government, the EU and world economic policies. It is a national disaster that requires an urgent all-Ireland response.

Sinn Féin is committed to keeping farming families on the land and ensuring a good quality of life for everyone living in rural communities. We support agricultural diversification in mixed and organic farming as well as off-farm employment, training and developing rural communities. We believe that agriculture in Ireland can be sustainable with an all-Ireland agricultural policy.

Sinn Féin wants to see viable rural communities with access to all public services, a strong community infrastructure and a sustainable future. Sinn Féin has put the need for a more co-ordinated and coherent strategy for the agriculture and fishing industries and sustaining rural communities, developed on an All Ireland basis high on the political agenda in the Assembly, Executive and Leinster House.

We must ensure an effective policy initiative focused upon the sustainability of Rural communities is under taken, giving rural communities the power and authority over the resources which they need to have, to obtain the same level of provision from basic public services.

Access to these services and the same standard of education, health provision, together with postal services, and electronic communication as those who live in towns and cities.

Rural Ireland has for many years seen a withdrawal of these essential services, resulting in a rural depopulation, further compounding the sense of isolation.

Sinn Féin will ensure that the rural development programmes which the EU brings forth, are based on the bottom up principle. These programmes must have at there core a community led structure, which have in built priorities and measures that address the decline in essential services.

This community involvment in crucial investment decisions is essential if we are to reinvigorate rural Ireland. The West of Ireland and the Border areas have been particularly affected. Sinn Féin will ensure that in any PEACE III negotiations a Border lands priority is included to that the specific needs of the border areas are addressed. One of the crucial needs is to further integrate communities on both sides of the border and the further harmonization of essential services.

Sinn Féin will work to address the remoteness, which that is felt by rural communities in the decisions and day to day working of the EU. The Irish government has failed to bring out to rural communities the EU policy decision makers so that our communities can engage with them. This can be seen by the failure to make the Irish presidency of the EU accessible and in no way, do the Irish people feel any ownership of the presidency. These decision makers still make meet in Brussels where they are less accessible to questioning and the views of Rural Ireland.

Sinn Féin will do what no other political party on this island has done, we will engage with the EU, we will put the concerns and outline the way in which policy change must come about. Sinn Féin will pursue the All Ireland agenda for agriculture in Europe, we will negotiate for the whole island to have the same status in Europe, it is wrong that one part of this island which is artificially attached to the UK has industrial status. All of the produce from this island must be classified as Irish, we will remove the UK status from the North's food production.

Sinn Féin will is about delivering change, these European elections will for the first time see all Ireland representation in Europe, rural communities on both parts of this Island share a common interest what we need now is a common platform, Sinn Féin will deliver that platform, we will ensure that common interests North and South which are particular to Ireland will be represented.

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