A Fine Gael backbencher has criticised the Government for consistently failing to properly invest in counties outside Dublin and demanded that money must be ringfenced in October’s budget to kick-start stalling economies in rural regions.
Waterford TD John Deasy said the plan must be drawn up to address chronic rural employment problems, which he warned would only be partially addressed by “cynically timed” action plans on jobs.
Speaking before his party colleague Jobs Minister Richard Bruton announced the Government’s action plan for the south-east, Mr Deasy said while such investments are welcome they simply paper over long-standing difficulties.
Mr Deasy said the reality is that the vast majority of funding still goes to Dublin, and it is “stupid” to believe the unemployment crisis is over just because the overall national rate has fallen.
“The first report produced by the strategic investment fund [which included a breakdown of exactly where money was spent after a request from Mr Deasy] indicates that of the €6bn-€7bn more than 46% has gone to Dublin, two thirds to Leinster, while Munster has benefited from 18%,” he said.
“We should have ring-fenced amounts for regions in the October budget, money needs to be diverted more than ever.”
Mr Deasy said that while improvements are being made in parts of the country, the figures show “we do have a two-tier recovery”.
He said that “if you listen to [Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas official and ex-Kerry GAA player] Pat Spillane”, it is clear his view does not “gel with what is being said officially in Government”.
“The [national] employment rate has gone down from something like 15% to 10%, but if you rest your view on that alone you’re crazy because so many people have left,” said Mr Deasy. “As someone who left in 1986 and didn’t come back until 1997 I think I know a little bit of what I’m talking about.
“You can paint the picture as half empty or half full, certainly things have improved, but not to the point someone should punch the air and declare victory.”
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