Government’s record on rural Ireland nothing short of an insult – Ambrose

The Government’s record on rural Ireland has been nothing short of an insult, according to Tipperary general election candidate Councillor Siobhán Ambrose.

Tipperary general election candidate Councillor Siobhán AmbroseThe “Charter for Rural Ireland” is a rehash of existing government policies including the report of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA), the National Broadband Plan, Food Wise 2025 and Action Plan for jobs.  There’s nothing new of substance from the Government that will immediately improve services provision, infrastructure and employment opportunities in rural parishes.

Fine Gael proposes an insulting talking shop by setting up A National Rural Development Forum to “highlight key issues needing to be addressed in the new policy framework and identify both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for rural areas and rural communities,” proving they simply are not in touch with rural communities.

“Tipperary needs to benefit from balanced regional development.  Our vision centres on giving rural people the same opportunity to prosper and grow employment levels in their areas like any other location.

“Fianna Fáil has a detailed policy laying out practical solutions to immediately improve the lives of rural dwellers in terms of service provision, infrastructure and employment opportunities.

The key policy commitments outlined in our “Manifesto for Rural Ireland” include:

– Reinstating a senior rural ministry and introduce a community services guarantee

– Provide top quality infrastructure roads, water, sewerage

– Restore the pupil teacher ratio in small schools & improve school transport services

“This anti-rural Government is continuing to leave rural parishes behind with a total absence of political action. In contrast, Fianna Fáil believes in an Ireland for all.  Our rural manifesto is a real action plan which will get things done on the ground, while the Fine Gael and Labour’s rural charter is a plan to make more plans.  We will provide universal fibre broadband and proper mobile phone coverage.  We will also increase LEADER funding and restore CLÁR and LIS schemes.

“Tipperary had 12 IDA site visits in 2015 and just 12 visits in the 3 years from 2012-2014. That’s an average of just 4 per year.  Dublin received 242 visits in 2015 and 581 visits over the period 2012-2014.

South Tipperary has the second highest unemployment rate in country at 12.1%, against the national figure of 8.6%.  North Tipperary has an unemployment rate of 9.8%, also higher than the national figure.  Youth unemployment is of particular concern to me and this needs to be an immediate priority for TDs in the new Dáil.  There are 13,000 people signing on the Live Register in Tipperary in January but these figures do not take account of people on job activation schemes.

Rural Ireland is just not on this Government’s radar.

“Fianna Fáil’s promises are measured and deliverable.  Our key pledge in relation to taxation is to abolish the Universal Social Charge for all income earners on the first €80,000 of income. We will do this by eliminating the 3 lower rates of USC (1%, 3% and 5.5%) and raising the entry point for the remaining rate to €80,000.

The Latest crime statistics show that year on year Sexual Offences in Tipperary are up 36.5%, attempts/threats to murder, assaults, harassments are up 29.8%.  All the while Tipperary has seen a drop of around 6.3% in Garda numbers between 2010 and 2015.  Burglaries are major fear.  There have been three major public meetings about this.  Stand-up Roscrea was established, there was a public meeting in Ballingeary in Cahir and over 1600 people attended meeting in Thurles before Christmas to highlight the issue of rural crime.  There is a real sense of vulnerability and isolation and residents in both urban and rural areas are really concerned.

“On health there are 3,608 on the outpatient waiting list in South Tipp General, up 1,587 or 78.5% since Minister Varadkar took over from Minister Reilly.  In Nenagh, there were 539 on the day case/in patient waiting list up 134 or 33.1% under Minister Varadkar.  South Tipp lost 145,026 home help hours over five years, down from 436,026 in 2010 to a projected outturn of 291,000 for 2015.

“To support rural towns we are proposing a new commercial rates system that incentives new businesses, has an inability to pay clause, places a rates surcharge on out of Town Centres that will help ensure a fairer rates system.  This will help ensure new start-ups are encouraged and struggling retailers and business are given space to breathe.  We also need to make it easier to get people into towns, and creating a flexible parking charge system that encourages short term stays and rewards return shoppers is a vital part of that.

“Towns are a vital part of the economic and social life of communities. Our policy reflects the need to create safe lively town centres that form the heart of their communities.

“We will also protect community and public services.

“The Government has already closed rural Garda stations, small schools are under constant threat of closure, local social welfare offices have been shut and rural bus routes are closing.

“The Post Office has long been the centre of local communities; it serves much more of a purpose than a venue for social welfare and pension payments. It is a place for social interaction and the postmaster was always well-known as a leader of local communities.

“An Post has been in discussions for several months with supermarkets and now shops with a view to allowing them provide ‘Post and Pay’ outlets. If these negotiations come to fruition then it could well sound the death knell for the Post Office network.

“Instead of undermining the financial work that the Post Office network does, Fianna Fáil proposes to enhance and expand An Post’s financial services.  Post Offices should become a centre for all state payments and charges.

“The Post Office should be the central location for motor tax, local authority charges and hospital charges.

“Instead of more of the neglect of rural communities by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil will invest in rural Ireland.  

Under Fianna Fáil two motorways were built the M7 and M8. One from Portlaoise to Cork by-passing Conmel and Cahir and the other from Portlaoise to Limerick by-passing Nenagh.  The N24 motorway Waterford to Limerick has still not been fully completed.  Clonmel and Cahir have been by-passed and we now need to complete the N24 to by-pass Carrick-on-Suir, Bansha, Pallasgreen and Tipperary town. A by-pass is also badly needed for Thurles town.  This government announced its five year infrastructural plans and if re-elected neither of these vital pieces of infrastructure will be progressed.  We believe that the Capital Plan as published by the government needs to be strengthened to cover more projects.  Our plan is to put additional capital expenditure of €2.7 billion over five years into addressing key issues such as social housing, universal fibre broadband to the home and a new five year programme for research in third level institutions.

“Our platform is about valuing and investing in communities, families and public services.  With balanced regional investment, not a two-tier recovery, we can ensure local jobs, local services, stronger communities and sustainable local services.  This is the vision that Fianna Fáil has for every town and village in Ireland and it is achievable.”

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