Rural Ireland needs jobs, not token gestures – Ferris
Sinn Féin TD and Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Ferris has said today at the National Ploughing Championships that what rural Ireland needs is jobs, not token gestures from a government that has ignored communities save to close post offices, Garda stations and schools.
Deputy Ferris was responding to the government plans to introduce a new rural development initiative which would spend €30m over a number of years, something Ferris derided as a token gesture, saying that his Sinn Féin colleague in the north, Minister Michelle O’Neill recently accessed €1 billion in EU funding for the Agri-sector in the north.
Deputy Ferris said:
“With the melding of LEADER funding into local authorities, this is merely a case of re-announcing old funding. Rural Ireland needs jobs and investment, not token gestures. The funding works out at €1.15m per county spread out of years; enough to buy headlines but not enough to make any difference.
“The attitude of this government to rural Ireland is astonishing. For generations, Fine Gael was a party that relied heavily on the support of the farming community and it seems that they have turned their back on that support. Rural communities and small farmers have borne the brunt of bad government policy. Farmers and those associated with the agriculture industry have suffered. Small farmers, the backbone of rural communities, have been under extreme pressure to stay in business.
“There are boarded-up shops in main streets in every rural town and village. As part of a planned effort to address this crisis Sinn Féin engaged in a focussed dialogue with rural communities across this island. The people of rural Ireland are fed up being ignored and neglected. Talk of recovery rings very hollow in towns and villages all over this state where local businesses are closing, where post offices and Garda stations are gone and where even the bus services are under threat.
“I, with the support of my Sinn Féin colleagues, recently introduced the Rural Equality bill in the Dáil. This bill aims to make it necessary to perform a rural impact assessment in order to eliminate, or at least lessen, existing discrimination against rural areas. Minister Michelle O’Neill this month accessed €1 billion in EU funding for the Agri-sector in the north.”