[Sinn Fein]

20th February 2003

Ferris: ``Sinn Fein will lead fight for rural Ireland''

The Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD addressing a conference organised by South Leinster Sinn Fein in New Ross today has promised that `Sinn Fein will lead the fight for rural Ireland.' The conference is the latest in a series of meetings held by the party throughout the country to update its policies on agriculture and rural development. This will culminate in a wide-ranging debate at the party s Ard Fheis at the end of March, and the preparation of a new policy document. Deputy Ferris said;

``I am delighted to have been asked to speak at this conference which will be attended by Sinn Fein representatives and activists from the South Leinster area. The plight of rural communities is one of the key problems facing us at this present time, and Sinn Fein is at the forefront of the fight against the erosion of family farming, the running down of schools and public services and the poverty and isolation that follows from this.

``For too long the political establishment has taken the political allegiances of people in rural Ireland for granted. Now, after generations of neglect, they are being forced to take notice because of the election of Sinn Fein TDs and Councillors and of a large number of independents. What underlies this sea change is the realisation that not only have the majority of people in rural Ireland not benefited from the so-called Celtic Tiger, but that they, along with working class communities in the cities and towns, are now going to be made bear the brunt of Government cut backs.

``Republicans have always stood in the vanguard of the fight for a decent life for rural communities. Now, as the fastest growing party on this island, we are framing the policies that will ensure that we will be able to give substance to that and to reverse the tide of neglect and isolation that has disfigured not only rural Ireland but our overgrown cities. People in rural communities have the right to expect to be able to live and work where they were born if that is their wish and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are given the same level of provision of services as any other citizen.''

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