[Sinn Fein]

26th July 2002

Sinn Fein set up all-Ireland Rural Development and Agriculture Department

Sinn Fein Vice President Pat Doherty MP today announced that the party is to set up an all-Ireland Rural Development and Agriculture Department to co-ordinate party initiatives in Councils, the Assembly, Executive and Leinster House. Mr. Doherty will head up this Department and has recently joined the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in the Assembly. Sinn Féín public representatives including Gerry McHugh MLA and Martin Ferris TD along with representatives from the five Cuigí regions are meeting in Carrickmacross today for the inaugural meeting of the Department.

Mr. Doherty said:

``We are setting up this new Department at a time of increasing concern about the state of farming industry and the threats to our rural communities. The agriculture industry and the fabric of rural life in Ireland have been damaged by government, EU and world economic policies to such an extent that it is a national catastrophe. It is estimated that well in excess of 100,000 people left farming between 1976 and 1998. This has contributed to rural depopulation and the damaging migration to the cities that has been the hallmark of the last twenty years and has been a defining factor in the creation of the housing and traffic crises that cities are now faced with. A further 20,000 farmers are expected to leave the land in the next 10 years. This steady draining has had negative knock on social and economic effects in rural communities.

``Decisions taken over the next five years will have a profound effect on the future of rural communities across the island. This is particularly true in relation to proposed CAP reform and over the next period we will be examining the detail of the proposals.

``Over the next six months we will be setting up Rural Development and Agriculture committees in every constituency in the country and will be bringing forward a detailed strategy for rural development. This will include the holding of four regional conferences in the Autumn and a National Conference in November.

Sinn Fein will be proposing that the government should bring about an All-Ireland process to address the crisis in rural Ireland and promote rural development. This will access the level of rural decline and allow us to bring forward all-island structures with proper financial assistance aimed at giving rural communities the length and breath of this island the real chance of a future.

`` A proper rural strategy must be all-Ireland, cross-departmental and marry planning, transport, industrial development, education and agriculture. That is how we will sustain rural Ireland into the future.''

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