Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural and Community Development, Claire Kerrane TD, has criticised the government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ policy paper for lacking a timeline for delivery and failing to focus beyond remote working in order to achieve the ambitious change necessary.
She has said that there is an absence of concrete measures to create jobs and deliver investment in infrastructure in rural Ireland.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“Rural Ireland has been neglected by government after government for decades and so, much needs to be done to turn the tide for rural communities. Just last month a report by the CSO showed that disposable income as a proportion of the State average had fallen in the Border, West, Midlands, South East and South West regions since Fine Gael came to power. It is these very realities that such a plan for rural towns and villages must tackle and improve.
“We have seen today a big, glossy launch of the ‘Our Rural Future’ policy paper, which the government have lauded as a plan to save rural Ireland.
“However, there is an absence of concrete measures to create jobs in our rural towns and villages, address housing demands and deliver balanced regional investment in infrastructure.
“It is also disappointing that the report fails to give clear timelines to achieve this plan. Communities need more than vague promises, they need to see real action and delivery. I will be pressing the government on this to ensure that concrete timelines for delivery are put in place.
“Moves to expand remote working and extend rural broadband demonstrates important progress but must be backed up action. This makes the commitment in the Programme for Government to accelerate the broadband roll-out even more necessary. Since Covid-19 hit, the spotlight has been put on the lack of broadband when remote learning and remote working became essential overnight.
“However, we need to look beyond just remote working opportunities. In order to achieve long term, sustainable change beyond the pandemic, we need to see jobs based in our towns as well as remote working options.
“People must be at the heart of any plans and making sure that people living in rural communities can have the same opportunities to prosper is a key part of that.
“The plan acknowledges the need for the provision of public services, but the recent closure of what may be the only bank branch in many rural areas is a stark contrast to this ambition. It is important that we support access to services, investing in infrastructure and the regeneration of rural towns and villages, to ensure rural towns and villages are vibrant and thriving places to live.
“We are also seeing huge potential for innovation, technology and skills development, and facilitating that development will continue to present enterprise and employment opportunities for regional areas. The government must ensure that.
“Finally, it is crucial that any plans for rural and regional areas are supported by the people living in these communities- not merely handed down from Dublin. All of these parts must work in synergy to ensure that rural communities can flourish.
“It’s time to stand up for our towns, villages and rural communities to ensure people get the resources, funding and opportunities they should be entitled to. Sinn Féin will continue to give rural communities a voice and hold the Government to account on this.”