THE setting up of a Rural Affairs Committee would be a welcome boost to struggling rural communities across the county, but it would need to have ‘teeth’.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) recently proposed a motion, at a County Council meeting, calling on the Council to consider the establishment of a Rural Affairs Committee.
He said that they are now in a scenario following the city boundary extension, that Cork County Council would now be primarily a rural authority.
‘There’s no doubt rural Ireland needs support. Some rural communities are struggling and there are even GAA teams who are finding it hard to get members and field teams,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
‘Unless we adopt something, we will go below critical mass and we should be putting the word out that we are supporting rural development and that we can be a voice for rural areas,’ he added.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said he fully supported the motion and called for the proposed Rural Affairs Committee to be set up as soon as possible.
‘This is bringing forward the problems in our areas and we see all the time pubs and shops closing every week. While tourism is big down in West Cork, it’s only for three months of the year, and then there’s almost eight months of wilderness,’ said Cllr Collins.
‘Farmers are struggling, as are volunteer groups, as there are no young people to join them.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) called for Bantry to become a ‘hub town’ and said West Cork needs a strong town. He also highlighted the problems sports teams are having across West Cork.
‘Some football teams are finding it hard to field teams and clubs are being closed down. Rural Ireland is being forgotten about and everyone is expected to drive to Cork for work or to emigrate,’ said Cllr Carroll.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) also supported the motion and said it is important that the Council is supporting industry in rural areas.
‘It would be vital to have a special committee to support this and also the winter months are the quietest months in rural areas,’ said Cllr Hegarty.
Cllr Bernard Moynihan (FF) pointed out that in his area of North Cork they do not have a tourism industry and said there are lots of villages in his area with no post offices, shops or pubs.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said there is a merit for a special committee to ‘rural proof’ these areas and said a dedicated marine section would be welcome too.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that if a committee is to be set up, then it was important that it wouldn’t become a talking shop and that without money or teeth, it wouldn’t succeed.
Cllr Bob Ryan (FF) said that central government has little time for rural affairs and that they want people to move into towns. He said planning is a major problem for those seeking to build homes in rural areas.
‘This is a very good idea and it should have teeth and power,’ said Cllr Ryan.
However, Cllr Kay Dawson (FG) said she didn’t see the need for the setting-up of a committee for the sake of it.
‘I think the philosophy of Cork County Council is to rural-proof our areas and therefore I don’t want another committee,’ said Cllr Dawson.
Cllr John O’Sullivan thanked his fellow councillors for their support for his motion and said they need someone to rural-proof decisions, and that a signal has to go out that rural communities will be supported.
County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said they would refer it to a Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) to see if it does need a SPC of its own.