There was general positivity surrounding the announcement by the Government to implement an ‘Action Plan for Rural Ireland’ but one Clare politician feels it has left people with considerable worry.
Sinn Féin councillor, Mike McKee is the party’s only representative on Clare County Council and has gone against the grain saying that the new plan could leave the county on the brink of “rural decimation”.
In a statement issued to The Clare Herald, Cllr McKee said, “Rural Clare is in serious trouble. We are without a spatial plan since 2002 that was supposed to provide a 20-year strategy designed to enable every place in the country to reach its potential ensuring a high quality urban environment, as well as vibrant rural areas’ and to ensure that Ennis would become a regional economic hub.
“However instead we have population and economic activity concentrating around a handful of counties mostly on the east coast. Comparatively internationally Dublin’s dominance is far out of kilter with other countries. And as a result there is a real danger that County Clare is facing rural decimation”
He continued, “Rural Clare is being decimated by government policies that drive our young people into emigration, by a lack of regional transport and communications infrastructure, by the collapse in the delivery of state services in rural areas, by the need for most young families to have dual incomes to survive and by state agencies that have skewed investment into a half dozen counties since the financial meltdown and imposed government austerity.
“Agriculture which remains the back bone of County Clare is on its knees. According to Teagasc only 37% of farmers are economically sustainable. That this exists when the country is hungry for energy is a disgrace. No feed in tariffs have been created by the government to allow farmers increment their incomes from bio energy, solar or small scale wind generation. And all the while Bord na Móna imports millions of euro of biomass every year.”
“Declaring that post offices in Clare are not economically sustainable, threatening transport links, preventing Credit Unions from providing finance for housing and business have all contributed significantly to rural flight from Clare over the last 10 years. Broadband speeds in certain parts of the county are up to 36 times slower than other areas which is seriously hindering economic progress. Yet the government do not seek to accelerate the delivery date and cannot guarantee that we will all be connected by 2022, the Shannon councillor concluded.