The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association is demanding that priority be given by any new Government to developing sustainable Rural Communities. “For the last 20 years successive Governments have overseen the side-lining of Rural Ireland with no coherent plan in how to develop the regions” stated Majella Gallagher INHFA Rural Development Chair.
Ms Gallagher outlined how no Government has commissioned a Paper on Rural Development since the 1990’s and stated that “the present crisis didn’t just appear, it is the direct result of no clear policies and not rural proofing Government legislation”. A Study by Teagasc highlighted that Between 1991and 2011 the Agriculture Forestry and Fishing sector and manufacturing industries lost 15,844 jobs in rural areas with declining population.
Despite there being no Government Paper on Rural Development there has being a number of reports covering overall Rural Development Policy and specific rural issues. Most notable of these reports is the CEDRA Report which outlines the issues but also makes strong recommendations in dealing with these issues.
Ms Gallagher stated that “a good starting point for any new Government would be to start implementing some of these recommendations and in particular the proposal for a Minister for Rural Development that has a budget and influence”
Ms Gallagher also outlined how some of our National Media outlets have failed many people in Rural Ireland by not highlighting their concerns. She pointed to the focus there has being on the housing crisis in Dublin, which is a tragedy. However stated Ms Gallagher “presently thousands of houses in towns and villages across Rural Ireland remain empty and in some cases we are seeing the demolition of houses”
Maybe continued Ms Gallagher “the real problem is not a lack of houses but a non-existent Regional Development Plan which is something I hope the National Media will start to understand and question”