Rural Development plans still waiting to be implemented
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan, during Private Members' time today berated the Government for its failure with regard to balanced rural development, pointing to rising unemployment and calling the National Spatial Strategy "strong on commitments, weak on delivery"
Deputy Morgan said: "Current government policies based on laissez-faire economics is bringing about the destruction of rural Ireland as it is failing to ensure sufficient employment and income opportunities, failing to ensure balanced regional development and failing to maintain public services in rural areas. The border region is amongst the worst in terms of unemployment. Recent census figures found that Carndonagh, Castleblayney and Dundalk all have a rate of unemployment of a least 19% compared with 4.5 % nationally - this is an indictment of the coalition government, particularly coming off the back of the economic boom of recent years.
"The National Spatial Strategy, which was supposed to address the imbalance in employment, was strong on commitments, weak on delivery. The three main gateway centres into rural Ireland in the National Development Plan are Galway, Waterford and Limerick. The importance of these was re-emphasised with the launch of the National Spatial Strategy in November 2002. They were seen as the keys to increasing the economic attractiveness of the regions in which they are situated. In each of those cities, unemployment has risen since 2002. Of the nine hub centers, seven have seen the numbers of jobless rise, some by alarming levels. This makes a nonsense of the Government's claim that the National Spatial Strategy is a success. Publishing it may have been a success but it is clearly not being implemented.
"We need to recognise that encouraging entrepreneurship, indigenous industry and the social economy provide the best opportunities for job creation in rural areas. We need to move away from our over-dependence on multi-nationals who, after receiving huge grants to set up, pull out after a number of years leaving an area devastated. We must recognise that a small community, which becomes dependent on one large industry, is in a very precarious position. We need to support small businesses that can often generate small profits but a lot of local employment and which are often overlooked by the industrial development agencies.
"Women have also remained disempowered in rural Ireland because of the Government's failure to ensure gender balance on Rural Development bodies such as LEADER and CLAR. It has disgracefully failed to meet the target set of 40% representation of women on the management boards of rural development programmes. And it has refused to accept our amendments to recent legislation such as the Bord Bia Bill to ensure that these targets are met.
"Public services in rural areas are under siege as the privatisation agenda is implemented. Government promises to 'rural-proof' all national policies are worthless as rural post-offices and Garda stations are closed and rural areas continue to be left bereft of access to public transport. Plans need to be sustainable with regard, not just to economic issues, and long-run profitability, but sustainable in relation to our environment, our natural resources, our culture, our social values, and the provision of social services to provide an acceptable standard of living.Rural development programmes need to be genuinely driven from community level upwards rather than directed by government-appointed officials and boards." ENDS