Tánaiste Joan Burton has denied a €30m rural revitalisation scheme, set to be launched after the next election, is an attempt to bribe country voters.
Insisting Labour would do well in rural areas despite an Irish Examiner/ICMSA farming survey showing the party with zero support among farmers, Ms Burton said the money would boost job prospects.
“The idea is to spread the recovery beyond urban areas to towns and villages, and this money is in addition to other funding for rural areas. It is intended to make the villages and towns, which may have closed-up shops for instance, more attractive,” she said.
The money, to be used to be used to revitalise the “attractiveness and sustainability” of towns and villages, is intended to buy votes, Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said.
He added: “€30m represents a sticking plaster approach to the problems affecting rural Ireland. The Government believes by throwing a token cheque at a massive problem it can buy re-election.
“This plan is more about PR stunts than actually engaging with the deeper problems that are hollowing out towns the length and breadth of Ireland.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the funding was a move in the right direction.
He said: “€30m is a recognition of potential here, it’s not going to solve all the problems by any means.
“While the recovery is significant, its benefits are not yet being felt as deeply in rural communities as in large urban areas and, to some extent, that is inevitable.
“What is important, now, however, is to take positive action to make sure that these benefits start to spread more widely and that they do not remain confined to our cities and other large urban areas.”
Mr Kenny, speaking at the ploughing championships, denied his commitment to stand down as Fine Gael leader during the next Dáil term made him a “lame duck”.
“It makes me state my intention of fighting the election, of winning the election, of serving the next term of government and handing over our country in a much better state than in which I found it,” he said.
The rural funding scheme will kick in next year and run until 2022.
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