Budget needs to tackle rural decline

THE next budget must grapple with the main issues contributing to rural decline, according to Irish Rural Link.

In a submission to Finance Minister Brian Cowen, IRL said these issues include the narrowing economic base of rural areas, regional inequalities and geographical peripherality.

Others include the decline in farm income, the fall-off in traditional type industry and below average investment in regions outside the greater Dublin area.

IRL claims that rural communities are affected by a lack of decision on the availability of regional health services and threats to local services.

Migration of the younger generation to the greater Dublin region, reduced level of community participation and falling numbers of young people engaged in farming are other issues.

IRL chief executive Seamus Boland welcomed the commitments to speed up the National Spatial Strategy entered into by Government in the new national agreement, Towards 2016.

“However, the budget must address specific anomalies that seriously affect the incomes of rural families,” he said.

“Among them is the widening of the means test for low income farmers to 30% and the broadening of accessibility to the Rural Social Scheme to allow people without herd numbers to apply.”

Mr Boland said rural communities are home to over 40% of the population and should not be forgotten in terms of access to services and opportunities.

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