Govt called on to protect rural Ireland amid uncertainty of Brexit

Govt called on to protect rural Ireland amid uncertainty of Brexit
Senator Tim Lombard

Frustrated Fine Gael TDs and senators have demanded the government come up with an action plan to protect rural Ireland, including the beef industry and communications infrastructure.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has agreed to requests to outline initiatives to the party meeting next week, including on fears the party will be punished in upcoming elections over the neglect of rural Ireland.

A number of politicians have raised the plight of rural communities, but particularly how the beef industry was facing all-time low prices, especially amid the uncertainty of Brexit.

Senator Tim Lombard warned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other ministers that there were huge issues in rural Ireland, including low beef prices.

He called for a new action plan, a “whole-of-government approach”, as party figures say one launched by Minister Heather Humphreys when she was in charge of culture was incomplete.

"Up to 52% of our beef goes to the UK. A bad Brexit would have major knock-on effects and decimate the industry," he said.

Junior transport minister Brendan Griffin warned last week about huge isolation problems in rural Ireland. Mobile phone coverage and broadband problems have also been highlighted, as has fears of an electoral backlash in May's local elections.

After a request from Fine Gael's parliamentary party chairman Martin Heydon, Minister Creed has agreed to consider the requests for action.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned of the impact on Irish industries in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

No matter how prepared we are, a no deal would “cause enormous strain” on the economy and on communities north and south, he told the All-Ireland Civic Dialogue on Brexit at Dublin Castle.

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