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Rural Strategy at odds with other policies

9 October, 2006

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson Michelle Gildernew MP has accused British DARD direct rule minister David Cairns of selling rural communities short after the launch of the 2007-13 Rural Strategy today.

Speaking from the launch today Ms Gildernew said:

"Rural communities need a real policy that is comprehensive and joined-up. What we got today was a document long on rhetoric and promises and short on deliverables.

"There is also a clear contradiction in making a paper commitment to 'strengthening the social and economic infrastructure of rural areas' when the proposed Rural Planning policy will undermine the fabric of rural communities and the huge cuts to the maintenance budget for the Rural Road Network will damage economic growth.

"It also rankles when glossy documents like this fail to mention the fact that the key economic development agency, Invest NI, continues with a failed policy of under investment West of the Bann, where there is a high concentration of rural communities, that is at odds with delivering balanced regional growth.

"There are also very specific concerns about the funding gap for the rural strategy and the lack of clarity about the implications of the changes arising from the Review of Public Administration.

"The future of the agricultural industry is imperilled by the rotating door of part-time British direct rule ministers and an attitude within DARD that borders on the anti-farmer.

"The acknowledgement that there needs to be a rural champion is almost an admission that DARD has failed farmers particularly on the issue of red tape and allowing farmers the freedom to farm.

"All in all this is a pretty thin document and I suspect that many rural stakeholders will be deeply disappointed. Rural communities are being sold short on a diet of empty promises." ENDS

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