Labour will stand up for rural communities

06 February 2016

Speaking at the launch of ‘Standing Up for Rural Ireland’, Labour’s plan for balanced regional development.

When I was appointed Minister for Rural Affairs in 2014, I was the first Labour TD to hold that portfolio.

The appointment of a Labour TD to the position was testament to the commitment that this party has to rural communities.

This is a commitment that stretches back over 100 years to the formation of this party, to a time in many constituencies when farm workers were the backbone of support for Labour.

And while our commitment to and involvement in rural communities has not changed, rural life itself certainly has. Indeed the pace of change in rural areas is probably greater now than at any time in our recent history.

This poses challenges, but it also provides opportunities, and my task, since I became Minister has been to ensure that we maximise those opportunities so that the recovery that is now under way in Ireland, will also be felt outside the major population centres.

This government, with Labour at its heart, has stood up for rural communities, and we will continue to do so. For example:

  • We have secured investment of €250m for LEADER programmes in rural areas between 2014 and 2020.
  • We have led on the implementation of the CEDRA report (Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas) and launched Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ), an initiative that has seen almost €4m injected into the rural economy.
  • Our national broadband plan is well on track to deliver universal high-speed broadband to all homes, schools and businesses by 2020.
  • We have delivered a thriving tourism sector through the introduction of the 9% VAT rate, scrapping the Air Travel Tax, the Gathering initiative, the development of the Wild Atlantic Way and other initiatives including Ireland’s Ancient East.

Labour believes that we need to continue to build the recovery in rural Ireland.

That is why we will provide greater supports for small-scale agriculture, artisan food production and tourism development in rural areas.

We will also target improved training and community supports at young farmers and small farmers. We will help food producers to market their produce and support the development of tourism training and cultural tourism in rural areas.

In addition, we will introduce a new social enterprise scheme to rejuvenate rural towns and villages, and in so doing, facilitate the reopening of key main street facilities such as pubs and shops that for so long, were at the heart of our rural communities.

As a Labour TD representing a rural constituency, I have been proud of the positive impact that Labour has had in protecting and building rural communities. And I am confident that if in this election, the voters ask us to participate in a balanced Government, we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

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