4 October 2007 Edition
Ploughing championships : Priorities for agriculture and rural communities outlined
Fighting for the rights of rural Ireland
Sinn Féin Six County Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew and Martin Ferris TD were joined by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, MEP Bairbre de Brún and local Councillors Brian Stanley and Paul Hogan last week as they launched the party’s initiative around ‘Equality for Rural Ireland’ at the Ploughing Championships in Tullamore and called for a new deal for rural Ireland.
Michelle Gildernew said that the needs of rural communities throughout Ireland were a priority for Sinn Féin. This was the reason the party took the Agriculture Ministry in the North. Martin Ferris and Pearse Doherty in the Seanad will be prioritising the needs of rural communities.
The Sinn Féin representatives met farming organisations to listen to their concerns and to set out our plans for agriculture and rural regeneration.
“As farmers gather from across Ireland at the Ploughing Championships the issue of Foot and Mouth disease is undoubtedly a big concern. And it highlighted the immediate need for all-Ireland co-operation to protect the agriculture industry right across the island. But this type of co-operation needs to go much further”, Gildernew said.
She said a new deal for rural Ireland was needed and people working in agriculture and living in rural areas have a right to be treated equally. Infrastructure, services and information need to be made as accessible in rural areas as they are in urban areas.
“Sinn Féin strongly believe that with planning, innovation, investment and other support rural economies, rural industries, rural businesses and rural communities can have a sustainable or even an enviable future. Moreover, we are convinced that future viability - particularly of Irish farming, fishing and new rural industries - rests on their development within an all-Ireland context”, Gildernew said.
“We need to develop new sectors of the rural economy that can play a key role in supporting the national economy as a whole, to the benefit of all, such as domestic renewable energy production. We need to ensure that people can live and work and count on a decent quality of life in rural communities. This requires an holistic approach in which many different policy areas have a part to play. This means we need to develop an integrated and coherent rural regeneration strategy on a cross-departmental and all-Ireland basis. It means protecting and developing essential services in rural communities eg schools, hospitals
“In this document we are setting out our proposals for a vast range of issues affecting rural Ireland. “The task facing us now is to listen, strategise, cooperate and harness the necessary political will to empower rural communities to achieve their maximum potential”, she said.
Martin Ferris set out key priorities for revitalising agriculture even for those not directly employed on farms. He said Sinn Féin was committed to ensuring that family farms are protected from further erosion and the party seeks to revitalise Irish agriculture into the future.
He said Sinn Féin would act as strong advocates for Irish farmers and proactively plan to ensure a viable and sustainable future for Irish agriculture.
Sinn Féin’s priorities into the future include:
• Making rural regeneration and balanced regional development a priority.
• Immediately commission an All-Ireland Rural White Paper.
• Actively promote and support entrepreneurship within rural communities, especially co-operative and other ‘social economy’ ventures.
• Provide greater access to start-up incentives for rural businesses.
• Reform the planning laws to support the right of rural dwellers to build on their own land or to purchase and build locally.
• Enhance investment in rural public transport, and ensure planned delivery of an all-Ireland road and rail network, with a focus on accelerated development in the western and border regions.
• Main priorities for agriculture
• Revitalising Irish Agriculture
• Ensure that the maximum number of people continue farming, while stemming the shift towards large scale factory style farming.
• Oppose importation of cheap meat that fails to meet the strict food safety regulations imposed here.
• Work to amend the Single Farm Payment regulations to raise the lower income limit and impose a higher income limit, in order to redirect EU funds and ensure a decent livelihood for smaller farmers.
• Assist farm diversification into new areas eg organic farming and renewable energy.
• Keep Ireland as a whole GM crop-free
• Facilitate the conversion of the Carlow and Mallow sugar plants to biofuel production.
• Give farmers adequate notice prior to farm inspections.