Four Roads farmer Willie John Fitzmaurice was one of those who stood up to speak at last Monday’s public meeting to discuss the National Planning Framework at the Hodson Bay Hotel. He feels strongly that unless something is done in the next five years, the rural Ireland we know will have all but disappeared in the next decade.
“There were four issues I raised at the meeting. Rural Ireland needs high-speed broadband, we need the County Councils to relax their laws in relation to planning, we need more factories and we need the return of the pension for farmers,” he said.
Mr. Fitzmaurice feels that years of neglect have left rural Ireland lagging behind in terms of development and he believes that if something isn’t done, the decline will continue.
“Factory farming will take over and that will be the end of rural Ireland. At the moment I have to travel four miles for a pint of milk, my son is studying in Scotland where factory farming is prevalent and he has to travel almost eight miles to the nearest shop”.
He added that rural Ireland needed strong representation at national level in order to “level the playing field”.
“Michael Finneran worked hard in his portfolio and got results but before that there was no minister. We need a Minister with power in this constituency”.
He added that he had sympathy for Minister Denis Naughten in relation to the current broadband situation and said he believed that the ESB should be encouraged to re-enter the National Broadband Plan bidding process. He went on to praise the work of local public representatives including the organiser of Monday’s meeting.
“Michael Fitzmaurice hosted the meeting on Monday. Nothing was said about rural Ireland until he came on stream and now everyone wants to get on the bandwagon”.
Willie John highlighted the exodus of people from rural areas and said that jobs were needed in order to prevent that.
“IT and medical factories seem to be where the jobs are. The IDA have enough buildings idle, factories can be put in there in towns like Roscommon, Castlerea, Tuam and Ballyhaunis.
“You have to keep people or there will be no Church, no GAA club and no schools and that’s the heart of any community”.
The farmer who owns land in Four Roads and Athleague, also highlighted the need for “a more even slice of the cake” when it came to farm payments.
“We also need to level the playing field in terms of payments. It’s better for a community if you have five families getting €30,000 rather than one family getting €150,000”.
Willie John called for the development of national resources such as the River Suck and River Shannon before reiterating his earlier point that if drastic efforts weren’t made rural Ireland would be no more.