23 January 2017

More fake news. That’s the reaction of rural families, small towns and community leaders across the country this evening, in response to the Government’s latest rural revival plan.

The so called plan, is more ‘fake news’ from a Minister who is making it up as she goes along.

Unfortunately this plan will have no hope of achieving what is required and what is desired for the regions, and worse again, it offers no hope for many struggling communities and small towns.

The boarded up and for sale signs won’t be coming down anytime soon if we are to rely on Heather Humphrey’s half baked, re-hashed, off the top of the head and even hair brained schemes.

The plan lacks strategy, substance and structure and more significantly, sufficient resources. Rural Ireland is once again being short changed by such stunts.

€60m is substantial money, but when the smokescreen and schmooze disappear, we learn in the small print that this is to cover 600 towns over three years, only raising expectations on a false premise.

In fact the Government’s plan is peppered with pious aspirations, pilot projects and promises. It will be as welcome as a cold turkey dinner reheated for rural families just in time for the political January sales.

Unfortunately, it is another missed opportunity by this Government to provide badly needed, meaningful and substantial supports and incentives for the regions.

It smacks of an attempt by Fine Gael to placate the rural Independents, propping them up for a little while longer, and to try and keep the Fianna Fail claw-back of rural support at bay.

If it seems like you heard it all before, it’s because you have. More gesturing around apprenticeships, in towns where there are no businesses to sponsor apprentices or to employ them once they qualify. Just how many more times are this Government going to announce and signal improvements to rural broadband?

Most bizarre of all a suggestion that disused shops can be turned into homes by bypassing the planning process; selective rate exemption schemes in selected counties which will lead to unfair and unbalanced competition along county boundaries.

Minister Humphreys is clearly out of touch with councillors and local authorities as she today urged rates exemptions and selective revaluations at a time when her colleagues across the country are increasing commercial rates, in an effort to maintain and sustain local services.

And in a stunning performance on the national airwaves today Minister Humphreys, while admitting that she hadn’t really decided or determined much of the detail of her plan as yet, nevertheless announced that she was thinking of giving families an into the hand cash grant of €20,000 to convert run down properties into homes.

And this figure, like everything else about this plan, she plucked right off the top of her head.

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