[Sinn Fein]

4th June 2003

Ferris: Government is failing rural communities

Commenting upon the Government's Progress Report, the Sinn Fein spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that it's record so far has been one of failure to deliver on the promises made to rural communities in the course of last year's General Election and in the Programme for Government.

Deputy Ferris claimed that the cuts being made, not only in the Departments with direct responsibility for the economic and social development of rural areas, but in education, health, transport and elsewhere means that the quality of life in rural communities is coming under direct assault from a Government that is working to a right-wing agenda for which it has no mandate from Fianna Fáil supporters. The Progressive Democrats had at least been honest in what they wished to accomplish although their policies had only won the approval of 4% of the electorate.

Deputy Ferris said:

``It is clear that this Government has not tackled the crisis in rural communities. Farming incomes continue to fall and there appears to be a complete lack of any forward strategic thinking as to how best to develop the agricultural sector, or to provide the necessary jobs and infrastructure for those rural dwellers not employed in farming.

``With regard to the current proposals for CAP reform, the Progress Report confines itself to vague generalities which is fitting as the Government has completely failed to properly represent the interests of Irish farming in the negotiations which have now reached a crucial stage. Having buried his head in the sand and provided no leadership since the Mid Term Review began last July, Minister Walsh is now desperately trying to jump on the coat tails of whatever half-baked counter-proposals are being put by other member states.

``The ability of Irish agriculture to adapt to future needs is also being impaired by a range of cuts not least those currently been implemented in Teagasc. The closure of research and education facilities makes a mockery of the Report's claim to be broadening the scope of agricultural education. There can also be little faith placed in the ongoing promises to tackle the issue of access to land, which Sinn Fein believes needs to be addressed in a much more fundamental fashion than tinkering with tax incentives''.

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