Martin Ferris TD - rural Ireland - Ard Fheis
As you will be aware, the Party is currently involved in a campaign to highlight the impact of the austerity programme on rural Ireland.
As the main motion indicates; that impact has been felt across a range of areas of public provision which has seen a serious deterioration in services; from schools and hospitals and bus services to the closure or downgrading of Garda stations and post offices.
That along with the overall impact of the economic downturn and the loss of jobs has led to a return of large scale emigration from rural communities.
Unemployment in some rural areas is of epidemic proportions. While the state wide average rate of unemployment is high at over 14%, it stands at over twice that in parts of the country and would be even higher were it not for the fact that so many people are leaving.
Along with the economic and financial impact of austerity we have seen an increase in social and other related problems. As young people leave, rural communities lose much of their vitality and that is perhaps most evident in the decline in sports clubs.
Those who remain behind often feel more isolated and that has led to an increase in the psychological problems associated with isolation including suicide.
We recognise that the GAA and the Irish Countrywomens Association and farmers groups are attempting to tackle some of these problems and they deserve the fullest possible support.
The reason that we launched this initiative was to attempt to bring together the diverse range of people who are involved in rural Ireland. We are not going to them and telling them what we think needs to be done, we are asking for their views and that is why we are currently in the process of meeting a range of organisations across the country.
We want to hear what people themselves feel needs to be done in order to turn around the current politics and economics of austerity and to utilise to the maximum our own human and other resources in order to build recovery in rural communities and throughout the country as a whole.
As part of that we are asking the groups and communities who we meet to submit to us their ideas. They will all form part of a comprehensive report which we will be drafting during the Summer and presenting as our analysis of the problems facing rural Ireland and our positive proposals incorporating those from various sectors of the community for the future development of rural Ireland. Central to our vision for rural Ireland is to utilise to the optimum benefit of the people of Ireland our own indigenous resources.
They range from natural resources such as our land and forestry and minerals on and offshore, to the talents and enterprise of our people individually and in communities.
Even in the midst of the current malaise those talents are evident. They are there in small businesses and they are there in local sports and other voluntary organisations, and indeed in our schools and hospitals and other public services where dedicated individuals are doing their best with greatly reduced support from the state.
It is only by developing those resources and those talents that this country will not only emerge from the current crisis but can lay the foundations for sustained and real development into the future.
If we have that as the basis of the rural and overall economy then we will not be as vulnerable to the periodical downturns in the global economy. And more importantly we will have a sustainable economy not built on property and speculation and bad credit but on the utilisation of our own resources and talents.
That is central to our vision for rural Ireland. And to our vision for a fully independent and sovereign Republic.