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Peadar Tóibín TD launches report on the future of Rural Ireland

1 December, 2017

Sinn Féin TD and Cathaoirleach of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Peadar Tóibín has launched a comprehensive report on the future of Rural Ireland.

Launching the report, An Teachta Tóibín said;

“This report is a year in the making. We met with well over 50 representative organisations throughout the State and the results are sobering.    

“Ireland is emerging from a decade of economic crisis. The economic transition is not evenly distributed. 

“Economic energy and population are concentrating in urban areas, most especially in the Greater Dublin Area. The rapid divergence is damaging for both Dublin and the regions.

“Yet through much of Ireland the opposite mirror image is at play. Nearly two decades of rudderless spatial development has left Ireland without an alternative to provide geographic balance.

“Farming has been at the heart of rural Ireland, buts it is no exaggeration to say that farming is in crisis. 37% of farms in this state are economically viable. That equates to just 48,000 farms. The average income of cattle rearing farms is €12,904 a year.

“Young people are relocating at startling rates from rural areas to large urban areas but mostly to Dublin. This relocation is because of the location of 3rd level education and the necessity for young educated couples in need of two incomes to live within commuting distance from a large city.

“This population shift is leading to a parallel migration of services. It’s estimated that currently 500 Post offices are economically unsustainable. 139 Garda Stations have been closed. We have also seen the closure of many banks, shops and pubs from rural Ireland.

“Infrastructural funding must meet the needs of today’s demand but it also needs to disrupt trends and create and anticipate future demand. The government must decouple the strict relationship between infrastructural investment and current demand.

“The Government needs to develop a Border Innovation Zone at key regional hubs along the border. This work should be carried out in partnership with the administration in the north of Ireland.

“There are examples around the State where it has been achieved in a structured hub-based system. The key ingredient is good telecommunications infrastructure and the State should ensure the development of fully serviced hubs throughout regional and rural areas.

“Many existing locations have internationally recognised. These should be leveraged. Products such as Aran Island Cheese, Tara Lamb, Cashel Whiskey, etc. could be created.

“A public social banking system, along the lines of the Sparkasse Banking System, needs to be created in Ireland with particular focus on rural and regional areas.

“There is a need for Government to provide greater commitment to area-based venture capital funds (e.g. Western Investment Fund) through providing €100m over 5 years or through the development of a model based on public community banks.

“Údarás na Gaeltachta has suffered severe cuts in comparison to other enterprise development organisations in the State. It plays a vital role in ensuring that Irish remains the main communal language of the Gaeltacht and is passed on to future generations. Ensuring its adequate future funding is crucial

“Despite all these challenges rural and regional Ireland is a wonderful place to live. It is brimming with potentialWhat is massively important is that we put front and centre of our National Objectives the needs for geographic balance and sustainable economic rights.”

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