Standing up for Rural Ireland
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this morning launched Sinn Féin’s ‘Standing up for Rural Ireland report’ and called on the government to ‘rural proof any budget proposals it has in next months budget to ensure that they do not adversely impact on rural areas.’
This document took a year to produce. It involved Gerry Adams TD; Martin Ferris TD and Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly travelling to rural communities across the state to talk and listen to the concerns of those living in rural Ireland, the border counties and the north.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:
“The National Ploughing Championships is an example of the drive and positivity in rural Ireland. They are an example of what is best about rural values, the meitheal and cabhair na gcomharsan.
"But all is not well in rural Ireland. The Government's austerity policies have perpetuated huge levels of unemployment, emigration and poverty in rural communities. Austerity is stripping communities of essential services, including schools, guidance counsellors, hospitals, post offices and Garda stations.
"New taxes and charges such as the property tax, VAT increases, motor tax increases and septic tank charges have increased this pressure.
"In marked contrast to the positivity of the ploughing championships the social fabric of rural Ireland is being undermined by a growth in isolation and loneliness.
"Several weeks ago the annual report from the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS) revealed that the second biggest numbers of suicide is among those working in agriculture.
"What is the government doing to tackle all of this? It is imposing cuts.
"And there is every reason to believe that the forthcoming budget will see further cuts in the lifestyle, values and infrastructure of people residing in the countryside.
"This is about choices.
"The government could choose to establish a jobs retention fund for small businesses, to provide incentives for local producers and initiatives which give people hope, young people job opportunities and emigrants a reason to return.
"But instead the government’s chooses to stick with its austerity policies.
"It is time for a fight back. This document and its recommendations are part of this.
"I want to commend Martin Ferris TD and Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly and their support team who travelled widely to talk and listen to the views of citizens who live and work in rural Ireland.
"Sinn Féin believes that there is an urgent need for an all-Ireland strategy on farming and the wider issue of rural development. This strategy needs to be built up and developed by the communities directly affected by rural under-development.
"Government policy needs to be rural-proofed: that is, decisions should be examined before being put into effect, to ensure that they do not adversely impact on rural areas and that they actually are to the advantage of rural Ireland.
"The aim must be to keep the maximum number of people on the land and to preserve the social fabric of rural life.
"Sinn Féin believes that sustainable rural economies, that can offer employment to young people, can be built. We want to ensure that emigration should not be the future for your children.
"There needs to be:
· A fair deal for rural households.
· Job opportunities in rural Ireland.
· Protection for rural schools.
· Equal access to health services
· Support for Gaeltacht areas.
· Proper management and exploitation of natural resources.
"This report contains many excellent recommendations that have come from the communities directly affected.
"Sinn Féin intends to distribute it widely and to continue the dialogue with rural communities as we seek to ensure that they achieve the same level of investment and public services that urban communities expect."