Govt neglect of rural Ireland exposed in damning letter

Claire McGovern

Reporter:

Claire McGovern

Govt neglect of rural Ireland exposed in damning letter

Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says the Government needs to wake up to the crisis in rural Ireland and begin to formulate a comprehensive strategy to create more balanced regional development. He says his concerns are fully supported in a damning letter sent from the Chairman of the Western Development Commission to its acting CEO criticising the Government’s lack of interest or action.

Paddy McGuinness has written to Minister Michael Ring asking him not to re-appoint him as Chairperson of the WDC. In a damning letter to the Acting CEO of the WDC, Mr. McGuinness explained that he believes “strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development nor is there any worthwhile plan to redress rural decline”. He also details what he terms the Government’s “lack of interest in the Commission’s work”.

Deputy Mac Sharry commented, “This letter outlines many of the issues that communities across the North West have been voicing for years. Rural decline, lack of employment opportunities and investment and a Government which is solely focused on development in Dublin and the commuter counties.

“The Western Development Commission has played a key role in supporting and promoting development opportunities across Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare since it was established in the late 1990s. It has been particularly successful with rural tourism, organic agri-food production and renewable energy projects. It is an extremely well respected organisation, which has played an important role in creating employment and community initiatives across the West and North West.

“The way the WDC has been treated by Government is appalling, but not surprising. Fine Gael has effectively ignored and abandoned rural Ireland since it came into power in 2011 –presiding over the closure of rural Garda stations, small schools; and now post offices are under threat. The Government is great at token gestures and big announcements, but the reality of the situation is that there is very little happening on the ground.

“The Government’s mid-term Capital Review and the National Planning Framework 2020-2040 must take a strategic approach and must be backed with the necessary resources to equip the regions to perform to their potential.

“Rural communities are struggling to survive, with almost no help from Government. The fact that agencies, designed to support and attract investment and employment opportunities, are being completely constrained, is indicative of this Government’s attitude to the regions. I am calling on Ministers Humphreys and Ring to stop burying their heads in the sand and wake up to the seriousness of the situation in rural Ireland. This blatant disregard cannot continue and I will be raising the issue with them over the coming days”.