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Project Ireland fails rural areas - Carol Nolan TD

6 March, 2018

Sinn Féin spokesperson Rural and Community Affairs, Carol Nolan TD has called on government to explain what measures it had taken to ensure equitable rural development in the Project Ireland 2040 Planning process.  

Deputy Nolan tabled the Topical Issue motion in response to the spatial imbalance of the National Framework Plan and its failure to include measures to redress rural decline.  

The Offaly and North Tipperary TD asked the Government to specifically describe what ‘Rural Proofing’ metrics, processes and methodologies that were used to throughout all stages of the planning and which stakeholders contributed to that process.

Deputy Nolan said:

“This Government claims to have strong rural credentials.  It claims it is committed to ensuring the interests of rural communities and that businesses are equitably accounted for in planning, policies and programmes.  

"This is not evident in the Project Ireland 2040 Plan.  There is little or no evidence that this Plan was subjected to a robust process of Rural Proofing.  

“Rural Proofing is not an abstract idea, it is a methodical and systematic process of stress testing proposals to ascertain whether or not they will achieve critical targeted outcomes in rural areas.  

"This systematic impact assessment approach is informed by statistical data and comprehensive processes of enquiry with key rural stakeholders.

“Rural Ireland is not a homogeneous ‘non-urban’ hinterland and solutions for coastal and island regions will vary substantially from those in the Border area, and it will differ again from those in the Midland region.

"Given the spatial imbalance of the National Framework Plan and its failure to include measures to redress rural decline, there is no evidence that Project Ireland 2040 has been subjected to rigorous rural stress testing or that it meets any international standard rural proofing best practice.  

"The Government’s failure to reach its own rural development targets over the past two years with job creation at 12% of its target, leader expenditure at 0.3% of its budget; rural broadband far behind schedule, and rural Housing targets not achieved, there is little reason to expect Project 2040 to deliver outcomes for rural Ireland.  

"I am asking the Government to detail the specific metrics, processes and methodologies that were used to ‘Rural Proof’ the Project Ireland 2040 Plan throughout all stages of development and which stakeholders contributed to that process.

In response, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English gave a lengthy statement about the consultation process that was adopted, but failed to make any reference to any rural proofing techniques or impact assessments undertaken. 

Speaking this afternoon, Nolan described Minister English’s response as "revealing" and expressed her disappointment. 

Deputy Nolan said:

“It is clear that the Government has neither methodologies, processes nor procedures in place to rural proof this or any other Department’s activities.  

"It is clear that the Minister did not understand the distinction between ‘consultation’ and ‘rural proofing’ and it is clear that Project Ireland has not been subjected to any methodical rural impact assessment, all of which is a shocking indictment on this over-hyped, spatially imbalanced, Government vanity Plan.”

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