A chara, I am here to speak to you on the neglect of rural Ireland. Recently I have been selected as the Sinn Féin candidate for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal a constituency crossing 4 counties. The size of this constituency in itself is sign of the decline and neglect of rural Ireland.
The reason for this is the failures of this FG/LAB Government and the previous FF Government's to invest in our future. This region has been hit severely by the recession and austerity agenda.
Many people have no work, or if they have, their income is reduced considerably and all this Government does is heap on, more austerity and taxes. This region is the worst in the state for families in mortgage arrears and in fear of losing their home.
Our rural towns are in despair with no spending happening and even in larger towns like Sligo we see shops and businesses closing every month. It’s like this government aided by the one before has put us all into a collective state of depression.
No wonder so many of our young people have left, that GAA clubs are suffering, but it’s not just clubs that suffer when people leave - it’s families, it’s business, it’s communities and it’s even the soul of the country. What is a country without its young people? It is a country without energy, creativity, imagination and fun, a wasteland.
We need to hold onto and protect vital services like our libraries, our schools, our post offices, our fire services, local hospital services. Recent research by Geo-Directory shows Sligo and Leitrim have the highest number of vacant commercial units in the state. Sinn Féin recognizes the need for a new economic develop model for Ireland, which will support and nurture small businesses to grow and guarantee resources for start-up enterprise.
Sinn Fein believes that local communities in rural Ireland deserve real representation. The country needs to be protected from the multinationals who seek to destroy the countryside through Fracking for shale gas. Sinn Fein is totally opposed to Fracking on the Island of Ireland and on any other island for that matter.
Sinn Fein has an alternative vision for rural Ireland that will encourage people to return home to the small towns and communities. We need to provide supports for new startup businesses and existing SME's. To develop the local economy from the small farmer to the local shopkeeper, the craft brewer to the local publican. We need to build confidence by creating real jobs, investing in rural infrastructure like high speed fiber broadband.
As we approach the centenary of 1916 and the proclamation, we work to deliver on the promise of that proclamation, equality and hope, for people across the entire nation.