Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Speech by Martin Ferris TD, on the Sinn Féin Dáil motion on jobs creation, Wednesday 13 March 2013

14 March, 2013 - by Martin Ferris TD

Speech by Martin Ferris TD, on the Sinn Féin Dáil motion on jobs creation, Wednesday 13 March 2013
“The rural economy needs to be central to a jobs stimulus programme. Agriculture remains the most important indigenous economic sector and it is one that has the potential to play a central role in future growth.

“It contributes over €20 billion to the national income and accounts for 10% of exports. Crucially it is also far less dependent on imported inputs, at just 20% and that is mainly fuels which comprise one of the major and unpredictable costs for the sector.

“In order to ensure the future viability of farming it is crucial that there is a positive outcome to the current negotiations on reforming the farm payments scheme.

“The current Single Farm Payment is clearly unsustainable and unfairly distributed. There are less than 2% of farmers on payments of €50,000 or more – and some of them are actually businesses rather than active farmers – while over 40% of farmers receive less than €5,000.

“Hopefully the outcome of the negotiations will see a decisive shift in favour of the majority of Irish farmers.

“The crisis caused by the discovery of horsemeat in burgers has also brought to attention the need for a fair trading regime on behalf of suppliers. While this has reflected badly on the overall food sector, farmers are as much the victims as anyone else.

“First of all they have to deal with processors who are applying downward pressure on the prices paid to farmers. Secondly, there is the question of why any processor would need to import beef, or what is supposed to be beef, into this country.

“The food industry if it is to fulfil its potential needs to be properly regulated in terms of traceability and content.

“My party also supports the re-establishment of the sugar sector which could include as well as the production for sugar as food, the establishment of a bio-refinery plant, which would produce ethanol from beet. The estimated cost for this project is €350 million with the potential to create 5,000 jobs.

“In the broader economy there needs to be specific focus on the potential for enterprise and job creation in rural communities. To address the clear imbalance in job creation there should be regional and sub-regional job creation targets set out for Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and other Enterprise Support Agencies.

“One of the reasons farmers are at a disadvantage with the processors is the shift away from co-operatives. That surrender of power to the large agri businesses needs to be looked at again. There should also be a pro-active plan to establishing co-ops to aid job creation in rural communities including the creation of tax incentives for co-operatives that create employment in rural or disadvantaged areas and making vacant IDA, Udaras and other public bodies' premises available for co-op use.

“One of the key barriers to the development of rural enterprise is the lack of high speed broadband coverage. The ESB, Bord Gais and Coillte could work together to roll-out comprehensive high-end broadband coverage. The ESB already owns a 1,300 km national fibre optic network, Aurora Telecom is a Bord Gáis Enterprise company established in 2000 specialising in fibre optic network services and Coillte also has 220 mast sites and 100 new rural broadband sites.

“We are obviously opposed to the sale of Coillte. Its resources should be used as part of the jobs creation programme. As part of that we should further develop Coillte’s role in eco-tourism. With ten forest parks and over 150 recreation sites Coillte is the leading provider of outdoor recreation in Ireland with an estimated 18 million visits to forests under its management each year.

“Another of our rural focussed proposals is for a €1billion investment in wind power industry and wave energy. It is estimated that this industry has the capacity to create 50,000 jobs over 15 years.

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