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Ireland in danger of becoming an urban State - Peadar Tóibín TD

24 January, 2017

The publication of the government’s Regional Development Plan will have left many across the state with considerable worry according to Sinn Féin spokesperson and Cathaoirleach of the Art, Heritage, Regional and Rural Affairs Committee.

‘Rural Ireland is in serious trouble. We are without a spatial plan since 2002. Population and economic activity is concentrating around a handful of counties mostly on the east coast. Comparatively internationally Dublin’s dominance is far out of kilter. The is a significant danger that we are heading towards being a city state.  

This is being driven by emigration, lack of regional transport and communications infrastructure, the collapse in the delivery state services in rural areas, the need for most young families to have dual incomes and state agencies that have skewed investment in a half dozen counties since the crash.

Agriculture which remains the back bone of rural areas is on its knees.  According to Teagasc only 37% of farmers are economically sustainable. That this exists when the country is hungry for energy is a disgrace. Yet no feed in tariffs have been created by the government to allow farmers increment their incomes from bio energy, solar or small scale wind generation. And all the while Bord na Móna imports millions of euro of biomass every year.

Declaring that 500 post offices are not economically sustainable, closing 139 Garda stations, preventing Credit Unions from matching the billions of euro at their disposal with housing and business need have all contributed significantly to rural flight over the last 10 years.

Broadband speeds in certain parts of the country are up to 36 times slower than other areas in the state which is seriously hindering economic progress in the regions. Yet the government do not seek to accelerate the delivery date and cannot guarantee that we will all be connected by 2022.  

Despite the 499km border which cuts through mostly rural areas and all the talk of Brexit there is absolutely no mention of the North of Ireland in the government plan. There are no efforts at developing possible synergies across the townlands and villages along the border.  

The report cites the Rural Social Scheme as an important support yet the government has now made changes to the scheme so new entrants have to be at least 25 years old, and cannot avail of the scheme for a period of over six years. There are no references to the 570 vacant state buildings in state hands many of which are in rural.

The IDA and EI key performance indicator of investment to regions outside of Cork and Dublin now includes Cork to make the figures look better. And yet even now with Dublin at capacity in housing, office space, schools and transport 50% of IDA investment is still being focused on Dublin.

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