Sinn Féin raise concern about the future of the Rural Development Programme
West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer has raised concerns with Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs about the impact of Brexit on the future of rural development.
Following a meeting which took place at the DAERA Headquarters in Ballykelly between Sinn Féin, the Permanent Secretary and senior officials, the party's Agriculture Spokesperson said:
“The Rural Development Programme provides support for community development and economic initiatives through a range of funding streams including the Rural Business Investment Scheme, Rural Basic Services Scheme, Broadband and Village Renewal.
“The previous programme achieved a £100m investment in rural communities and created 1,200 jobs.
"I am pleased that the current programme has created 108 jobs and achieved £9.7m spend so far.
“However, I did express concern that DAERA has not yet drafted a rural policy for consultation on the same basis as the draft agriculture policy.
"I emphasised that Sinn Féin supports the north’s vote to remain in the EU and that any future policy must adopt the LEADER approach to ensure that local people are involved in decision making and future policy must align with the rest Ireland and the EU.
“The Rural Development Programme is the only source of strategic funding for rural community organisations and businesses. The threat posed to this by Brexit has caused a great deal of concern among rural groups and businesses.
“Sinn Féin is consistent in our position that securing special status is the only way to protect the interests of rural dwellers, businesses and community groups.
"We will continue to press ahead with this campaign at all levels – in the EU Parliament, in the Dáil and local Councils, with the British government, in local communities and in our engagements with government departments."