IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Chairman Thomas Cooney has wished the new Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys well in her new role. He has also called on her to rural proof all decisions taken by Government over the coming years.
Mr. Cooney said, “Minister Humphreys and all Government Ministers must deliver a more balanced economic recovery across the regions. This is essential with CSO figures showing contrasting unemployment rates across the country, ranging from 8.8% in Dublin to 12 and 13% in the West, Midlands and South-East regions.”
IFA has identified the following ten key action points to kick start a re-energised rural economy. The Association will work with Minister Humphreys and her colleagues in Government to deliver the following for farm families and all rural dwellers:
- A high quality rural fibre broadband network across the countryside, to support farm business, job creation, investment and rural development.
- A three-year exemption from local authority rates for new business start-ups to support local enterprise development in rural areas.
- Measures, such as tax-credits, to encourage employers to take on apprentices and create long term employment.
- Tax incentives for businesses to locate in villages and town centres, which have been decimated during the recession.
- Increased and measurable targets for policing hours and presence of mobile units in rural areas by An Garda Síochána, to reduce crime and create a greater sense of security in the countryside.
- An increased and ring-fenced annual rural roads budget from the Department of Transport each year, allocated to local authorities as part of a planned repair and maintenance programme. The re-establishment of a separate local improvement scheme fund in each local authority.
- An increase in the number of voluntary rural walk schemes to support economic development and tourism in rural areas.
- A package of measures to facilitate the development of proposed Greenway projects, which works in co-operation with landowners impacted and protects their rights.
- A review of the hedge cutting dates, to reduce the closed period, in line with the nesting season.
- Increased fines and greater enforcement by local authorities to tackle the scourge of littering by passing motorists and users of the countryside.
Rural Ireland continues to be a good place to live and work in and enjoy. However, the delivery of these key policy measures will be an important step in addressing the challenges faced by rural communities and to ensure a more balanced recovery takes place.