RURAL IRELAND IN CRISIS.
Deputy Michael Lowry Condemns The Latest Initiative To Regenerate Rural Ireland.
Deputy Michael Lowry has this week criticised the late late Government Initiative on a stimulus package to regenerate Rural Ireland. Labour Minister Ann Phelan has been Minister with specific responsibility for Rural Development for almost 5 years. We hardly knew she existed but hey presto a couple of months before an election she comes out of a slumber with a whopper of an empty promise. Since this Government was elected all we have heard is aspirational statements and hot air. This most recent announcement is a paltry €30m pre-election gimmick. Minister Ann Phelan has the audacity to allocate €4m of this fund to her own constituency of Carlow/Kilkenny leaving €26m for the rest of the country. The kind of schemes covered under the new proposal such as renovation of old buildings and improving local amenities are already covered under the terms of Leader Group and Lottery Funding. The real issue faced is that the funding available to Leader in Tipperary has been cut by €15 m. It’s ironic that the person who presided over that €15m cut is one and same Minister Kelly.
The root cause of the crisis in rural Ireland is the lack of job opportunity for young people. Thousands of our young people have had to emigrate, forced to leave home, leave their families, friends and community. Parents are denied the privilege of being close to their loved ones, denied the gift of seeing them mature into adulthood. There are many issues as a consequence of this emigration. Fewer houses being built, no work for builders and tradesmen, fewer children being born, schools losing numbers, putting teachers jobs at risk with small rural schools facing closure. We then have small shops, post offices and Garda Stations shut down. We also face the prospect, due to a shortage of priests we are going to have parish clustering with implications for rural churches and social contact. Emigration has had a massive impact on local communities and in particular sports clubs. Many GAA soccer and Rugby teams have been decimated by the flight of its young members.
The government and the national agencies have done nothing to correct the imbalance between city and rural regeneration. Access to a proper broadband service and information technology is a huge disadvantage. It is impossible for country towns to attract industry as it has little prospect of competing against the city locations that have the entire necessary infrastructure already in place. The IDA should immediately construct advance factories in places like Tipperary. It is inevitable that when a Company decides to set up business it will make a decision on the location based on a ready to go turnkey facility.
Deputy Lowry stated – we now have a two speed economy – one for Dublin and one for the rest, operating in a fast and slow lane. The closure of Garda Stations has left older people in particular feeling vulnerable at a time when city crime gangs are roaming the country causing fear and anxiety. The feeling of isolation is made worse by a combination of no local transport which makes it impossible for people to socialise.