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McMullan welcomes DARD minister's commitment to agricultural and rural communities

25 November, 2014 - by Oliver McMullan

Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson in the Assembly, Oliver McMullan has welcomed Minister Michelle O’Neill’s commitment to the agricultural and rural communities as part of her 2015/16 budget consultation draft.

Speaking after attending a briefing of the DARD Committee, Mr McMullan said:

“Quite clearly the minister has had to take some difficult decisions due to the Tory government’s imposed restrictions to the Executive’s block grant.

“Michelle O’Neill has however, demonstrated her commitment to the long-term sustainability of the agricultural and rural sectors by maintaining vital frontline services such as the DARD Direct offices. This includes a further financial commitment to advance the proposed new office in Strabane.

“The minister has also indicated her commitment to maintain important initiatives such as the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation programme.

“This will provide essential services to rural communities which have suffered greatly due to historic neglect and deprivation.

It’s also reassuring to learn in the draft consultation that other programmes such as the decentralisation of public sector jobs continues to be progressed.

“It is stated that other priorities such as the payments to farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) will remain. The Rural Development Programme including LEADER continues to develop with an expectation that it will open for bids next year.

“It’s now the Minister’s intention to put out to consultation the contents of this draft budget and I’d encourage all agricultural and rural stakeholders to have their say.”

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