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Direct Rule has failed to tackle the rural crisis

16 November, 2005

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that Direct Rule has failed to tackle the crisis facing farmers and the devastating impact it will have on the rural economy and rural communities.

Ms Gildernew said:

"It is over three years since we had locally accountable ministers taking decisions that work for the people of the north and not Whitehall mandarins. The failure to bring forward a strategic response to the crisis facing our farming industry is compounded by the fact that we have had only 18 months of local institutions against a background of three decades of Direct Rule.

"The future of rural Ireland should be at the top of the political agenda. But it isn't. Report after report details the ever-increasing crisis in rural Ireland. Yesterday Sinn Féin launched its campaign to expose the cost of Direct Rule. Direct Rule is a failure. It fails all the people of the north at every conceivable social, political and economic level. Direct Rule Ministers have presided over a rural crisis. Farming and fishing incomes are falling, poverty levels are increasing in rural communities and promises of proper investment in employment, housing and infrastructure in rural areas have been broken. Yet, farmers and rural dwellers have not had their voices heard because of a policy of divide and conquer.

"Sugar growers are suffering, Beef farmers have mounting losses and Dairy farmers are getting squeezed more every day; thousands are leave the industry every year. Farmers are now caught in a nightmare scenario of falling prices and increasing costs. Unless the issue of farmgate prices and the power of supermarkets is addressed then it is unlikely that the situation will improve.

"Among different farming interests there is little sense of solidarity. If Irish farmers took a minute to examine how their French counterparts acted to support each other, they might well learn that united we stand, divided we fall.

"A common agenda for Irish farmers, fishermen and rural communities is essential. The coming together of the many disparate farming interests across the island will be of long-term benefit to rural communities currently short-changed by selfish interests in Dublin, London and Europe. There is strength in unity." ENDS

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