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Sinn Féin nail SDLP lies on rural policy

12 May, 2006

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the SDLP of being out of touch with reality after Dolores Kelly claimed that Sinn Féin had supported the abolition of the Rural Development Council, which is a lie.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Dolores Kelly in engaged in pedalling lies and myths about Sinn Féin's support for rural communities. Perhaps if Dolores spent a bit more time working with and for rural communities she would realise the stupidity of trying to weaken the growing opposition to the proposed planning guidelines being pushed by British direct rule ministers.

"Both Sinn Féin and the Ulster Farmers Union backed the seven council model. We did so for a variety of reasons but principally because it put ordinary people, citizens, at the heart of local government and not politicians. Indeed many people are wondering just why the SDLP have bought into the unionist opposition to the seven council model. But then again they split the nationalist consensus on policing and settled for minimum change as opposed to trying to achieve the maximum change. On rural planning we clearly need the maximum change to the current draft plans.

"The reality is that the SDLP have not even recognised the importance of community planning and the potential of Area Based Committees that can give local communities a statutory role in the planning process and strategic development of their communities involving all of the government agencies.

"I also want to nail the lie that Sinn Féin supported the attack on the Rural Development Council. Sinn Féin want to see the abolition of every quango that cannot justify its existence because far too many of them are part of the democratic deficit and stuffed with political cronies from parties such as the SDLP. However the RDC has more than proved its importance to the development of sustainable rural communities.

"If the SDLP is as concerned about rural communities as it claims then it needs to stop peddling lies about Sinn Féin and recognise that we need to maximise the campaign to oppose the draft rural planning proposals. They would also benefit rural communities if they abandoned the unionist position on seven councils and started to develop consensus on the powerful role that community planning should have in defining local communities because this can have a particularly important role in rural communities." ENDS

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