While the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Fine Gael TD Michael Creed, has welcomed the new Action Plan for Rural Development, his Cork North West constituency colleague, Michael Moynihan of Fianna Fáil, dismissed it as ‘too little, too late and simply a rehash of previous announcements made by the government.’
The Minister stated that the Action Plan for Rural Development gives a whole-of-government approach to rural development, which aligns closely with Food Wise 2025, the 10-year strategy for the agri-food sector and with other programmes operated by his Department.
However, Mr Moynihan pointed out: ‘This is the fourth “rural plan” launched by Fine Gael while in government. The CEDRA Report, the Rural Charter and commitments in the Programme for Government have all failed to deliver for rural Ireland. This reveals a systemic rural policy failure by the government.’
West Cork IFA chairman Corney Buckley said that the Rural Development Plan launched by the government must be resourced with sufficient funding that can arrest the decline of rural areas, particularly those areas that are peripheral: ‘The recent upturn in the ecomomy is not being felt in rural Ireland and IFA believes that, with a well-funded plan, significant inroads can be made.
‘Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy and the importance of supports to agricultural production and the provision of a good environment are paramount to sustaining many areas. The jobs that flow from a vibrant agriculture both directly and indirectly cannot be underestimated.’
The West Cork Communities Alliance welcomed the new Action Plan for Rural Development. They see it as a breakthrough in acknowledging the importance of rural Ireland, in that it is the first ever whole government strategy aimed at all people living and working in rural Ireland.
They say that the allocation of €60 million as a starting point, but stress that this investment will have to be continued over the years to have any real impact. Con McCarthy, chairman of West Cork Community Alliance, said they feel that the government ‘took heed of the issues raised by the rural independent TDs during the talks for government, when they highlighted such things as closed-up shops in small towns and villages, lack of jobs, poor quality broadband and poor mobile phone coverage.’ He said the plan to convert derelict shops and provide refurbishment grants will give many of our run-down villages a much-needed facelift and entice more families to move back into these villages with a chance of restoring them to their former glory. During the talks, there was a call for high speed broadband to be brought to all rural areas and this has been prioritised in the Action Plan.