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Priority Questions. - Rural Development.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 73. Mr. Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  if he has satisfied himself with the progress made to date in fulfilling the commitments made in the programme for Government on rural development. [24724/02]

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The first commitment on rural development in the Agreed Programme for Government is to give clear priority to the protection and development of rural communities. The White Paper on Rural Development continues to be the Government's policy and the national development plan continues to be the vehicle for delivering the commitments it contains. I have provided detailed replies to questions on the White Paper in recent times, including one from Deputy Ferris on 2 November and a similar one today from Deputy Moynihan-Cronin.

Last week the Government published the national spatial strategy. As I said then, this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the Government's commitment to rural development and to the revitalising of rural areas.

In relation to the CLÁR programme, as I indicated in reply to recent questions, the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis at NUI Maynooth has recently completed its analysis of the 2002 population census and my Department is examining the results in the context of the review of CLÁR areas.

I am considering how a rural social economy programme, as referred to in the Agreed Programme for Government might best be established. The implementation of the county development strategies will be monitored by the task force on the integration of local government for local development on which my Department is represented. I intend to review the planning guidelines for small rural enterprises within the 12 months deadline as promised in the agreed programme. I intend to pursue with Teagasc the issue of developing the agricultural colleges as wider rural development resources.

Responsibility for post offices rests with my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. In so far as I am concerned, I intend to co-fund on a 50-50 basis [880] with the Information Society Commission the cost of installing kiosks in 12 post offices in CLÁR areas to provide on-line access to Government information. This will enhance Government information channels for people living in rural areas.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris How does the Minister envisage programmes such as Leader and CLÁR can continue to expand in view of the drastic cuts proposed in spending areas in regard to rural development? What effects does he believe the cuts in programmes such as REPs, installation aid for young farmers and the early retirement scheme for farmers will have on efforts to create balanced rural community development? Does the Minister agree that the withdrawal of public services such as transport, post offices and schools will condemn an increasing number of rural communities to isolation and poverty? Will he agree that genuine rural development requires real democratic accountability and involvement of the communities and that unless this is implemented any effort at development and regeneration—

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I thought one was not allowed to read from a script during Question Time, that the protocol was to ask questions, not to read from a script.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon If a Deputy quotes from a publication he or she must give the title of it, although it is not in order to quote from a publication during Question Time.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris I am not quoting. I asked if the Minister agrees that rural development requires democratic accountability.

Mr. O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The Deputy is reading his questions.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford Zoom on Seymour Crawford He is reading what has been prepared for him.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon Deputy Ferris should proceed with his supplementary question.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris Can I proceed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon Yes, with a supplementary question.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris Does the Minister agree that genuine rural development requires real democratic accountability that involves communities and that unless this is implemented any efforts at development and regeneration will always be short-term projects and will be at the mercy of spending cuts and bureaucracy?

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Those are the most extraordinary questions I have been asked. When I was in Opposition we asked questions, we did not read statements. I cannot agree with what the Deputy said and, unfortunately, in the time permitted I [881] cannot go into all the details. The Deputy mentioned various agricultural schemes. He should table a question to the Minister for Agriculture and Food who would be able to tell him that there will be no cutback but rather an expansion in the money available for the farm improvement scheme next year and that there will be no cutback in REPs payments next year.

In relation to my Department, I am confident that I can carry out a full programme under the CLÁR and Leader programmes next year and I will fulfil that remit. As the Deputy will be aware, a good deal of the work in my Department involves working with other Departments. For example, my Department was very involved in the spatial strategy. There is a clear statement in the strategy on the development of rural areas to the effect that they are not merely an adjunct of the towns. In Government one must lay the bunchlocha – the foundations – well, which we have done in the short time that this has been a full ministry.


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