5 May 2005 Edition

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Rural Communities - Taking control of their future

Sinn Féin agriculture spokespersons Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew and North Kerry TD Martin Ferris, together with South Down Westminster candidate Caitríona Ruane MLA and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, launched the Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development platform last week in Castlewellan.

Gildernew said the Slieve Croob Inn venue is "an excellent example of a community tourism initiative built to develop resources here for tourism and to attract inward investment into the local economy.

"We need to see more of this. We need to enable people in our rural communities "to have greater control over their economic future."

Sinn Féin's priorities are for the all-Ireland co-ordination of agriculture and rural development and a long-term agricultural development strategy based on higher value added production and the removal of 'UK' status on food exports.

Gildernew explained that over the past year, Sinn Féin has been involved in a number of initiatives, including securing important progress in the campaign to have the Beef Export ban in the North removed.

"We have opposed plans to concentrate dairy production that would wipe out the small dairy farmer," she said. "Sinn Féin has also been at the forefront of the GM-free Ireland campaign and has brought forward proposals opposing attempts to introduce GM food and crops into Ireland."

The party has set out how the impact of the European Nitrates Directive can be reduced and has worked to achieve the maximum spend of rural development money in rural areas and lobbied intensively to have PEACE II money spent.

"Through our two MEPs, Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald, we have sought to achieve progress across all of these issues and importantly in the roll out of a Peace III funding programme," said Gildernew.

"But fundamentally, Sinn Féin has articulated the ways in which British agricultural policy is detrimental to Irish farming and carried the case for the development of all-Ireland responses to the many pressing issues facing our farming and fishing industries and our rural communities."

"At the heart of Sinn Féin's vision for our rural communities is the freedom to farm; freedom from the bureaucratic nightmare of red tape; an all-Ireland framework that maximises the return for our produce and secures a fair deal for all Irish farmers and fishermen and women; and vibrant rural communities that have greater control over their own futures."

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