Regional Development ‘too important to magic away’ – Tóibín
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Regional and Rural Affairs Peadar Tóibín TD has criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s move to vanish ‘regional development’ as a departmental responsibility.
Speaking on a Bill to institute the new ‘Rural and Community Development’ portfolio today, Deputy Tóibín said:
“This is the third manifestation of this Department in just over a year. In May 2016, the Government announced the addition of the regional and rural responsibilities to the existing Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht. This was in the main a cosmetic exercise in that the necessary powers or budgets were not transferred to the Department to allow it to do the work which its title claimed it would do.
“This was extremely disappointing. There is serious economic damage being done in this country. The chasm that exists between parts of this island, economically, demographically and socio-economically, is incredible.
“Unemployment is currently three times higher in the Border regions than is the case in Dublin. In certain parts of the west, broadband speeds are 36 times slower than in the centre of Dublin. The north-west region is without a rail line or a motorway. Gaining access to the north-west is very difficult for those in business. IDA Ireland investment has mostly been concentrated in Dublin and Cork.
“The other issue about which I am concerned in respect of the Department is the fact that the word ‘Regional’ has been deleted from its title. We know that the titles of Departments reflect their priorities. If a particular objective is not set out in the title of a Department, the opportunity of giving that objective priority is missed.
“The Government must consider the all-Ireland context in which we live. In January 2016, I carried out a report on the all-Ireland economy during which I interviewed around 100 organisations, including the Confederation of British Industry, the unions and the Ulster farmers. Everyone I spoke to felt that if we planned, funded and delivered together, we would have more efficient and better services for everyone on the island,
“I tabled an amendment to include ‘all-Ireland’ in the name of the Department because we cannot continue to develop the island spatially on a Twenty-six Counties or Six Counties basis. We must ensure all the Departments are aligned.
“If the Minister does not use the name I suggested in my amendment, some level of regional, rural and all-island development should be included which would set out the new dispensation for this island in a radical new way. It would be a signal that co-operation represents a major opportunity to save money on the island while increasing services and infrastructure.”