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Minister’s lack of detail on Rural Policy 'shocking' - Ó Clochartaigh

25 February, 2015

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural Affairs, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, has said the lack of detail from Minister Ann Phelan on Rural Issues is shocking.

The Senator was speaking after a presentation by Minister Phelan to the Oireachtas Environment committee.

He said:

“I asked specific questions at the committee which the Minister only had vague answers for. She talks about Enterprise Ireland and the IDA 'Rural Proofing' their policies, but when pressed she could give no clarification as to what this means, what specific job creation targets are in place for rural areas, what guidelines are in place in her department in relation to the policy, whether her department oversee the process or not. It appears that her version of 'rural proofing' is to have the odd chat with them about it and to have it mentioned in annual reports and the like.

“I asked her whether her government colleagues are 'rural proofing' their policies, or whether she would have a role in rural proofing legislation to ensure that rural Ireland is not detrimentally affected and she dodged that one too.

“I asked her what the guiding principles of the new SICAP programme are going to be for rural communities. I wanted to know if the matrix of a deprivation index would be used to allocate funding to those in most need, as was the case in earlier social exclusion programmes and she didn't answer my question. I asked if there would be a focus on specific target groups such as rural women, people with special needs, those at geographic or educational disadvantage and she could shed no light on this either.

“The only clear answer she gave me was that in relation to the LEADER programme that she would not be allowing the islands to operate separately under that programme, which is a hugely retrograde step. She said that the islands would be serviced under county structures from now on. That the 'alignment' process of local development organisations has been concluded and that there would be no going back. This means that the particular needs of islands communities are not properly understood by this Minister and her government. I would still call on her at this late stage to review this decision.

“It appears to me that we have a Minister for Rural Affairs that has a derisory budget of only €1m specifically for her brief, who has plenty of rhetoric, but hardly any substance to her policy. This typifies the government’s approach to rural issues and their communities and does not augur well for the future of rural Ireland.”

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