Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Rural Development, Claire Kerrane, yesterday (Wednesday) introduced the Rural Equality Bill, which is aimed at ensuring equal investment for rural Ireland.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Deputy Kerrane said: “This Bill is especially timely as for certainly the first time in my lifetime, we are seeing a move from urban to rural, with people and families leaving cities to settle in rural communities.
“With this, we need to ensure adequate investment and services follow to support and sustain rural towns and villages. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity, post-Covid, to get this right. That means a united approach with all key stakeholders on board to make this happen.
“This Bill is about fair play and equality for rural areas; it would ensure that all public bodies, including all Government Departments, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland have due regard for rural Ireland by producing rural impact assessments on their measures, especially where such measures might have a significant socio-economic impact on rural Ireland.
“For decades, rural towns and villages have been neglected by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Governments. Many never recovered from the 2008 economic crash – services were taken away, jobs were lost and never replaced, towns became derelict and businesses closed.
“The consequences of this neglect has been highlighted by the EU Commission in the case of the West and North West region in downgrading it from a ‘Developed Region’ to a ‘Region in Transition’, because when it comes to investment in jobs, infrastructure and education, we are at the bottom of the table. This has not happened by accident.
“We have an opportunity increased access to funding from Europe between now and 2027, during which time the EU will contribute €60 for every €100 invested in the West and North West. We need to take full advantage of this.
“I hope that all Deputies will take this opportunity to support our rural communities in backing this Bill”.