Rural Ireland has been decimated, says Macra leader
Macra na Feirme president calls on Government to invest in rural areas
Incoming Macra na Feirme president Seán Finan has said: “We have witnessed the decimation of rural Ireland in recent years with the closure of post offices and garda stations.”
Mr Finan highlighted the continuing closure of rural business and urged the Government to fully implement the 34 recommendations made in the Commission for Rural Development of Economic Area (CEDRA) report which was published last year.
“We have witnessed the decimation of rural Ireland in recent years with the closure of post offices and garda stations,” he said.
“Rural Ireland has lost a lot. This report was done to help rural Ireland and there are a lot of very good recommendations in it so we’d like the Government to prioritise the implementation of it.
“Appointing Ann Phelan [Minister of State for Rural Affairs] to oversee it was a positive first step but there’s a lot more that could be done with issues such as broadband and transport. They affect the rural economy and if they were implemented it would make a big difference, to people’s lives,” he said.
“Today, I call on the government to invest in rural Ireland to ensure sustainable communities can be built up where people can live and work.”
Pat Spillane, who chaired the group that produced the CEDRA report, criticised the lack of progress in implementing the recommendations on Friday’s Late Late Show. He highlighted the fact that the last budget allocated €1 million to implementing aspects of the report, and allocated the same amount to dealing with wandering horses in urban areas. Mr Spillane said rural Ireland was only not about farming and the focus must be on creating jobs outside the farm gate as well as inside.
Mr Finan said he would be lobbying the Government on all issues affecting young people living in rural Ireland. He was making his inaugural speech at Macra na Feirme’s AGM in Loughrea, Co Galway. The 31-year- old farmer and construction project manager from Ballinlough, Castlerea Co Roscommon won the contest on April 7th to replace outgoing president Kieran O’Dowd, a barrister from Gurteen, Co Sligo.
Mr Finan said the young farmer and rural youth organisation had “unlimited potential” for development. He said he would work with Macra’s members to draw up a development plan for the organisation. “This plan will include ambitious targets for an increase in membership and participation in all areas including cities, rural areas and colleges,” he said.
Macra na Feirme chief executive Edmond Connolly said the organisation had gone through a challenging period with a 35 per cent cut in public funding in recent years. The registered charity had a €37,000 deficit in 2014. However, membership was increasing and 18 new clubs had already been set up this year. Macra na Feirme has more than 5,000 members in about 200 clubs around the State.
Three new vice-presidents also took office at the AGM. Odile Evans from Plattenstown, Arklow, Co Wicklow is the new Leinster vice-president. The new northwest vice-president is Caroline O’Dowd from Gurteen, Co Sligo, wife of the outgoing president Kieran O’Dowd. Gerard Griffin from Fermoy, Co Cork is the new Munster vice-president.