Fifty-odd years ago two lifelines were thrown to rural Ireland by a Fianna Fáil majority government. In July 1961, Ireland applied for membership of the EEC. Just five years later, in September 1966, the minister for education announced his free education scheme. We then joined the EEC in 1973.
These two pivotal moments in Irish history were welcomed by the rural and farming community — they offered hope.
To this day, education and agriculture with European support, remain the primary props that we the youth in rural Ireland use to pull ourselves towards an economically comfortable future. Towards a financial situation where it will some day be possible for us to get married and settle down in our home villages.
These past few weeks and months the Government have begun to strip us of the two lifelines we have — our education and our beef market. The Mercosur deal hit us where it hurt.
For me what was most sickening was the apparent cluelessness of one Fine Gael senator who highlighted on Virgin One’s Tonight Show that the 90,000 tonnes of beef coming from South America is going to Europe, it’s not coming here.
So she didn’t really see what the problem was, perplexed, I suppose, at the huge crowds gathered outside Government Buildings with wellingtons and megaphones — 90,000 tonnes of beef going to Europe, sure how could that possibly affect Irish farmers?
Over the past week the minister for education told students to use their student grants to cover the rising costs of rent. He also said that families who cannot afford university should consider “regional options”. It was also confirmed, by the same minister, that 17 schools were found with structural defects and as a result some schools will not be in a position to open for the new term in September.
I met my local Fine Gael MEP candidate during her campaign back in May — she came to Galway, together with Leo Varadkar, and talked to me about the ‘need for inclusivity for rural Ireland’. Well now she’s elected, and we feel more excluded than ever.
“Them crowd above in Dublin” can ignore us if they want, but they’ll face the wrath of the polls for selling out our beef farmers. And by God will they have a battle on their hands if they dare touch our student grant or threaten our education. Education is a human right. Without farming it is all we have left.
This reader's opinion was first published in the print version of the Irish Examiner on 22 August 2019.