Michelle O’Neill MLA and Agriculture Minister – Agriculture
Rural communities are the heart of Ireland, they are and always will be the backbone of Irish society. So we must work to protect, enhance and support them to thrive.
It has been a particularly challenging time in recent years for the farming community due to events largely outside our control such as the weather, global prices and the demand for cheaper food.
However despite these challenges and throughout the world-wide recession, our farming and agri-food sectors have continued to perform well.
Agri-food is one of our economies most important sectors, with a turnover of over 30bn across this island employing in excess of 265,000 people.
We need to build on this as we try and bring this country out of the economic mess left by previous and current governments in the 26 counties. To build on this I have initiated the development of an agri-food strategy bringing government, the processing sector and farming communities round the table, which will see the whole supply chain working together. The key to the success of this work will be fairness in the supply chain.
One of the key elements in shaping future supports for the farming and rural communities will be the new CAP. We are hopefully approaching a conclusion of the negotiations in Brussels in the coming months. So it is increasingly vital that we maintain the Team Ireland approach that I called for at the outset of the negotiations. Progress has been made but there is more to do.
Despite the efforts of the British government to strip the supports from the rural community we continue to make and demand a new policy, which is well funded, which is flexible to adapt to local needs and which is simplified away from the current bureaucratic regime. Sinn Féin will fight this tooth and nail to ensure a better distribution of the funds.
We will also continue to protect the most vulnerable in our rural communities and that is why Sinn Fein have, in the north invested £26 million into tackling rural poverty and isolation by increasing rural transport, increasing rural childcare places, tackling fuel poverty, providing access to mains water and working towards tackling the issue of lack of rural broadband.
We also by the end of next year will have invested £500 million into rural development in the six counties, growing rural businesses, developing rural tourism and creating rural jobs.
Sinn Féin has set out a pathway to recovery for rural Ireland. We have demonstrated our commitment to rural communities and will continue to deliver in the years to come.
Stand up for rural Ireland.