Full text of the speech delivered by Cllr Rachel McCarthy to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry.
Every day in my constituency of Cork South-West, I see the interdependence between rural towns, villages, - and the people who live and work in the surrounding areas.
I believe this interdependence is the very definition of rural community.
There is now a great feeling of abandonment in these communities. And with good reason
According to a recent study by Teagasc, rural towns have a consistent poverty rate of 10pc compared to 5pc in cities, unemployment in rural towns trebled in recent years, whereas it doubled in cities.
Three years ago, Phil Hogan launched a political takeover of the community-based Leader programme. Today the troika of Ann Phelan, Alan Kelly, and Simon Coveney have continued this sabotage in the Programme presented to the European Commission last year.
In this Rural Development Programme, severe restrictive new measures known as GLAS, seem designed to force small to medium sized farmers off the land.
Hill farmers from Schull to Bantry may have to bulldoze trees, rocks, and ditches,- and set fire to hillsides to avoid fines, and qualify for farm supports.
This will affect wildlife, the environment, rural tourism and the rural jobs so vital for our traders, co-ops, and shopkeepers.
This governmental blindness has also been extended to the hi-tech sector.
The Department of Communications has confirmed that many rural areas will not get Broadband for another 5 years.
Ireland was 27th out of 31 European countries in a recent survey of broadband provision
Perhaps, while living in their own virtual cloud this government can convince themselves that prospective visitors and business people will not notice the devastation, or maybe they simply don’t care.
Sinn Féin cares!
Last November, I accompanied our MEP Liadh Ni Riarda as she led a delegation of the Leader groups to express their concerns to the European Commission.
As a result of this pro-activity a number of measures have been rolled back.
This shows what we can achieve as a party, working together.
Rural communities are resilient.
We are not satisfied to raise our children in the ghost towns that Austerity has created.
We in Sinn Féin will continue to struggle for a society based on equality for all our citizens regardless of their address.
We will continue to prioritise fairness and equal rights, and we will bring hope and action to all communities.”